BEN Garnham is out of Brantham Athletic’s FA Vase fourth round tie against Whitley Bay – and may miss the rest of the season.

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The 22-year-old underwent surgery on Monday in an attempt to cure a long-standing groin injury that has blighted his season since signing for the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division side in the summer.

Garnham was diagnosed with Gilmore’s Groin – a sports hernia – on both sides just before Christmas by long-serving AFC Sudbury physio Tony Brightwell.

Although the recovery period is usually four to six weeks, Garnham is planning to write off the rest of this season, rather than rush back, and may use the time to go travelling instead.

The midfielder, who was the first of Brantham boss Tony Hall’s five summer signings after joining from Felixstowe & Walton United, said: “It has been incredibly frustrating not being able to play to my full potential.

“I was so looking forward to playing for a side expected to be challenging for the league title and in cup competitions, which we have, and I got myself really fit in the summer and had a good pre-season.

“But since the end of August I have been struggling with the injury, and after it did not clear up following three weeks’ complete rest in November, I was playing with the aid of pain-killers until the problem was correctly diagnosed.”

Garnham, who has scored three times this season – all from the penalty spot – has been used sparingly in recent weeks as Brantham have continued to challenge for the title ahead of their FA Vase tie against the four-time winners which will now take place next Saturday, after being postponed early yesterday afternoon.

“I am grateful to Tony Hall for not only giving me the opportunity to come to Brantham but also for keeping me involved. I could have delayed the operation to sit on the bench against Whitley Bay, but wanted to give myself the maximum time possible to recover before next season,” added Garnham.

It is the third injury blow he has suffered in the last two seasons – an ankle ligament injury sidelined him for a month as he helped Felixstowe avoid relegation in 2010/11 and then he missed ten weeks last season following a knee ligament injury.

He still scored ten goals – an impressive return for primarily a defensive midfielder – and Hall, who had tried to sign Garnham on loan while he was at Hadleigh prior to going to the Goldstar Ground, finally got his man in the summer.

Hall, who has not given up hope that Garnham may play again this season, said: “We will miss Ben. He started really well in pre-season and has since had some good games and some indifferent games and we now know the reason why.

“The season does not finish until the end of April so if he is out for six to eight weeks, he could be back before the end of March if he doesn’t go travelling.”

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