CARETAKER chief Ian McDonald has been handed another major selection dilemma beyond his control as Farnborough Town struggle on towards Conference survival.

Striker Ken Charlery didn't make the trip to Leigh RMI on Tuesday night because of a "private clause in his contract" and fears over his future at the club are clouding the battle to avoid a relegation dogfight which Boro are now just four points away from entering.

The club are obviously keeping tight-lipped at the moment as to what the clause entails, but it does bring Graham Westley's dealings into the equation once again and leaves boss Macca with a major headache as the season comes to a close.

When asked the reason why Charlery did not play a part, Macca was instructed to say simply: "There is a private clause in his contract which meant he could not play in the Leigh game. At the moment it is causing some bother between Ken and the club."

The loss of Charlery, coupled with an ankle and knee injury sustained to Joff Vansittart against Barnet on Saturday, leaves Macca in more bother with Christian Lee (hamstring) also out injured and defender Darren Annon suspended for Saturday's crucial game at Forest Green.

And with Macca also trying to secure a deal with Woking to continue Stuart Reeks' loan deal until the end of the season, the boss is entering a busy and crucial time.

The only good news for Macca is that, thanks to top sponsors Shelley and Stephen Gorys of Alexander Francis, the loan deal of key man Geoff Pitcher has been extended until the season's end. The husband and wife pairing have agreed to fund the deal in a bid to help the club financially and secure Conference status.

Boro's plight should be secured with three more wins, but they need to come quick.

Fellow strugglers Leigh RMI were there for the taking on Tuesday, but despite dominating long periods of possession with some fine flowing football at times, they took their foot off the gas at crucial moments and the hosts somehow claimed maximum points with a 3-2 win.

Macca explained: "For the first 20 minutes, we were battered by the two big boys up front, we just could not handle them physically. After that, however, we got a grip on the game and played some pretty stuff without really having that cutting edge.

"A few harsh words were said in the dressing room at half time and for 20 minutes in the second half, they could not get out of their own half.

"But after getting it back to 1-1 we just stopped. We pressed the self-destruct button and exploded, and they got a second wind.

"For some reason though, at 3-1 down we started playing again and I was flabbergasted as to why we couldn't do that at 1-1. They were there for the taking but we couldn't put them to the sword.

"When we are attacking, and in turns of creating chances, I don't think there's a better team in the league. But it's no good playing pretty stuff for just half an hour or so, we need to have a competitive edge for the full 90 minutes."

Boro have now gone eight away matches without a win and are desperate to stop the rot as the last time they won in the Conference was on Boxing Day — against Tuesday night's opponents Woking.

The three point give-away closed the gap between themselves and RMI to just two points with third-bottom Nuneaton just four behind.

Boro could really have been two or three goals down after 15 minutes, but they hauled themselves back into the game and with Pitcher and Lenny Piper pulling the strings in midfield, they dominated for long spells.

They forced the Railwaymen back into their own half and although laid siege to the Leigh goal, but lacked the quality balls and the quality finish to hurt a solid defence.

Leigh could have had a couple of early goals through big striker Keith Scott, who made a big impression in his first game at Hilton Park since moving from Scarborough.

The veteran striker made his presence felt and after narrowly heading Andy Heald's free-kick wide, made no mistake in the eighth minute when he rose above a static defence and powered home the same player's cross.

He could have grabbed a second when he charged past Annon, only for the ball to beat keeper Tony Pennock but roll just wide of the upright.

Boro forced their way back into the game, however, and were unlucky when a shot by makeshift striker Dean Green was parried into the path of Piper, but he could only hit the side-netting. Rocky Baptiste raced through the defence but with the unmarked Piper screaming for the ball, the awkward striker wasted the chance by blasting way over the bar.

But after all their threat, Macca's men finally scored that elusive goal in the 69th minute when Pitcher blasted home a fine 25-yard free-kick into the bottom corner.

But parity lasted for just five minutes when big centre-half Wayne Maden out-jumped the defence to thunder home a header from Phil Salt's corner.

Leigh then notched a crucial third soon after when Salt pounced on Heald's cross to drive home and all but end the Boro challenge.

Boro, to their credit, still forced a nail-biting finale after Chris Piper rifled in a superb 20-yard shot, but the hosts hung on.

Macca knows now that wins must come quickly, and although he is confident in the ability of his small but talented squad of players, he is not ruling out the possibility.

He said: "People say I'm doing a good job but three points from a possible 18 is poor and if this continues we could find ourselves in a relegation scrap. We've got all the teams in our half of the table to play and it's these games we need to win to get points on the board."

Macca is hoping to have Lee back in time for the trip to Forest Green, to join a bare squad of just 15 players including two goalkeepers and three untried youngsters.

If Charlery or Lee does not make it, it could mean a full debut for either striker Danny Potter or winger Paul Harkness.

BORO: Pennock, Reeks, Taggart, Annon, L Piper, Pitcher, Patterson, Baptiste, Green, C Piper (sub Potter 82), Butterworth (Harkness 80). Not used: Osborn, Ayres.

Ref: D Birkett. Att: 305.