STOCKPORT County boss Dave Challinor insists Antoni Sarcevic missed out against Wanderers through injury – but that he expects the midfielder to be ready for the replay.

Challinor claims he made the decision to pull the former Bolton skipper from the squad in the FA Cup first round tie.

The game finished 2-2, and Wanderers striker Eoin Doyle suggested in a post-match interview that there had been a “gentleman’s agreement” between the two sides not to play Sarcevic.

Challinor maintained that he had taken the decision with next week’s National League game in mind.

“He got a whack yesterday,” the Hatters boss said. “It was a tough decision but, for us, the Bromley game was more important.

“We have got a suspension with Macca (Macauley Southam) and we have other players out but what we don’t want to do is risk anything that will result in us losing players for a long time.

“We have two players out on loan that we can’t recall for 28 days, so we are not massively stocked up at the top end of the pitch.

“He is obviously a big miss for us, but I would hope he will be ready to play against Bromley.”

Sarcevic quit Wanderers to sign for Stockport after starting 13 of Bolton’s previous games in League One. His final outing had been against his former club Plymouth, where he had been dropped to the bench, after which rumours have circulated over a bust-up with manager Ian Evatt.

Challinor admits pulling him from Sunday’s squad was not an easy choice.

“He’s absolutely devastated,” Challinor told The Bolton News. “Players are always going to tell you that they are fit and want to play but sometimes you have to make decisions that take it out of their hands, especially with the opportunity for him to come back here.

“Having spoken to him he left here in certain circumstances and part of that was going back to Plymouth and that being a massive thing for him.

“So to miss out today, he is devastated. But in time I hope he will get over it and see that the decision was made in everyone’s best interest.”

Challinor is looking forward to working with Sarcevic, however, and feels he can be a difference maker in the National League.

“He will be unbelievable,” he said. “I tried to sign him as a 16-year-old when he was at Woodley Sports and I was at lowly Colwyn Bay but he chose Chester over me, and I wasn’t too pleased.

“He is a great player and at the level we are at he will have a real impact.

“I hope he will be ready for the replay. We have a league game before it which is massively important.

“Anyone who is fit can play and hopefully we can be a little bit more on the front foot but that isn’t a guarantee.”

After securing a replay – which may well catch the eye of the TV schedulers – Challinor praised his squad’s efforts, having worked with them for just three training sessions.

“It was a massive effort from the players,” he said. “It was never going to be about what I could see tactically from the players but more about whether they had what was required to help us in the league and they had that in spades.

“And if you have got a fanbase that turn up in numbers to support their team you have to use that as a positive, to help you. We have to keep them in the game as best we can.

“There were stages of the game where we had to be resolute, we had to defend. And for the fans to almost reinforce that they are with the players is massive.

“We are never going to be tested as severely as we were today in our own league – but we will evolve in terms of what we are asking the players to do. We were a little bit better in the second half but we need defenders to get on the ball and have that extra bit of control. I didn’t feel like we had much there in the first half.

“After half time we were better in terms of our shape and not turning the ball over as quickly. It is a work in progress.”