An optimistic appeal by Newcastle to have Fabricio Coloccini's three match ban rescinded ended in vain this week, as the FA stood by their decision to uphold the Argentine defender's suspension.
Having received a straight red card for his mistimed challenge on Aaron Lennon during last weekend's defeat to Everton, Coloccini's impending ban adds to the already threadbare squad that John Carver has left to pick from, particularly in terms of defence.
Long-term injuries rule out defenders Steven Taylor, Massaido Haidara, and Paul Dummett for the rest of the season, while loaned out full-back Davide Santon will not be recalled, as he is set to complete a permanent transfer to Inter Milan imminently.
Article continues below
As a result, this leaves just Mike Williamson as the lone fit central defender in the squad, and he's not even considered part of the first choice central defensive pairing. With a terrible defensive record of late, in which Newcastle have conceded nine goals in their last four games, it goes some way to highlighting how fragile they have become at the back without their regulars in place.
Set to play Arsenal, Sunderland and Liverpool in their upcoming fixtures, Carver will have to hope that whichever makeshift back-line he patches together displays some form of resilience in defence if they are to gain anything from these challenging fixtures.
Article continues below
During the pre-match press conference ahead of this weekend's game against Arsenal, Carver made the point that it will not be used as an opportunity to promote inexperienced academy players into the fold.
This would effectively rule out the prospect of promising youngster Lubomir Satka making his senior debut for the club, despite being named amongst the substitutes for the past few games .
With that in mind it appears likely that Daryl Janmaat will switch from his regular spot at right-back and partner Williamson in the centre of defence, forcing utility man Ryan Taylor into either of the full back positions.
Although still working to regain full fitness following his long-term lay off, Taylor will be heavily relied upon, as the other full-back spot looks set to be handed to a novice in the position, with no other fit defenders left to pick from.
Candidates include winger Jonas Gutierrez, who having fully recovered from testicular cancer has previous experience in playing at full-back while on international duty with Argentina. Perhaps a more plausible couple of options would be that of defensive midfielders Jack Colback, or Vernon Anita. Their high level energy will aid their ability to run the flanks and their natural defensive mindset may be enough to prevent opposition attacks when needed.
Slightly helpless in this situation, Carver will simply have to make do with what he has left at his disposal. If he can ride out this period of defensive turmoil then he will deserve great credit for struggling on in the face of adversity, yet if he doesn't, then his chances of gaining a permanent role at Newcastle grow slimmer by the game.