FORMER Shakers skipper Dave Challinor has been ruled out for the rest of the season.

The centre-half has been dogged by a knee injury first sustained in November and has not played first-team football in over a month.

Shakers boss Alan Knill revealed yesterday that he did not expect the 32-year-old to recover in time to play again this season.

He had similar concerns for fellow long-term absentees Simon Yeo and Paul Morgan.

Yeo will return to Chester in May and Morgan has another year to run on his contract, but news of Challinor's premature end to the campaign raises doubts as to whether his four-year association with the club might be at an end.

"There is no way Chally will be back before the end of the season," Knill confirmed, ahead of Saturday's game against Macclesfield Town. "If Simon Yeo came back, I don't think he would get back in the team because you'd need him to train for a good week before putting him back in.

"Paul Morgan keeps coming back then getting injured again. It is difficult for him at the moment."

Keith Alexander returns to Gigg Lane for the first time since he was sacked as director of football in January.

The manner of his departure - alongside then manager Chris Casper - did not sit well with the Shakers' dressing room, and Knill admitted there are some who may feel they have a point to prove to the Macc boss.

"When you listen to them, I think they are up for it - those who know Keith," he said.

"We have got Macclesfield, then Rochdale and Accrington - all real derbies - so you would expect them to be up for that too."

The manner of last week's capitulation against Barnet still rankles with Knill, and he has demanded a response in order to keep going a run of four consecutive home victories.

"Good teams don't lose two on the trot - they come back," he said.

"We haven't lost two on the trot since I have been here and that is the target."

Brian Barry-Murphy is a major injury doubt for the Shakers, having missed a week of training with a thigh injury.

Steven Haslam's return from a stomach bug may mean only a place on the bench for Andy Parrish, who should shrug off an ankle injury picked up at Underhill.

Paul Scott returns to take the captain's armband in midfield after a two-match suspension.

Macclesfield could be without midfielder Jamie Tolley, who was taken off in the goalless draw against Mansfield with a hip injury.

Big striker Martin Gritton is also missing with a back strain.