NICKY Hunt became the latest victim of Wanderers' early-season injury jinx on Monday when he was ruled out for four weeks with a cracked fibula.

The England Under-21 full-back suffered the injury to his left leg in the closing minutes of Saturday's 1-0 victory over Portsmouth, putting a dampener on the celebrations.

For while Sam Allardyce has seen his team make a flying start in the Premiership with 14 points from seven games, his meagre playing resources are being stretched to the limit by a catalogue of injuries, predominantly in the defensive department.

Already missing Ivan Campo for up to eight weeks with a broken foot, Wanderers went into the Portsmouth game without Abdoulaye Faye and Radhi Jaidi, who failed fitness tests on groin and hamstring injuries respectively, then lost Gary Speed, who aggravated a back problem after just 10 minutes.

Hunt's lay-off exposes the lack of defensive cover in the Reebok squad and presents Allardyce with major selection problems going into the busiest phase of the season with key issues at stake in the Premiership, UEFA Cup and Carling Cup.

Unless Speed, Faye and Jaidi show marked improvements on the fitness front, Wanderers could be down to a skeleton squad on Thursday when they take a 2-1 lead to Lokomotiv Plovdiv in the second leg of their UEFA Cup first round tie and with little respite, having to take on a buoyant Wigan Athletic at the JJB Stadium three days later.

Progress in Europe will mean slotting in the first of their UEFA Cup group games next month in addition to four scheduled Premiership games and the Carling Cup third round tie at home to West Ham, which is provisionally scheduled for Wednesday, October 26.

November could be even more demanding with the potential of three Premiership games, three UEFA Cup matches and a Carling Cup fourth round tie, if they overcome West Ham.

Allardyce admitted the increasing injury problems had taken the shine off a victory that took Wanderers to third in the Premiership, above Manchester United and with Arsenal and Liverpool trailing in their wake.

"My big worry at the moment is that injuries have hit us earlier than we had expected, he said. "With Abdoulaye Faye and Radhi Jaidi failing their fitness tests, the only defensive-minded player we could put on the bench on Saturday was Joey O'Brien and it was a good job we did, with Gary Speed going off early on.

"It was a massive decision to go with Joey but it turned out to be a great day for him because he helped us keep a clean sheet."