IAN McDonald has been dealt a bitter blow ahead of Saturday's crunch FA Trophy tie after an administration error cost him the use of key midfielder Geoff Pitcher.

Football Association chiefs turned down Macca's request to play his tough-tackling loan signing, claiming they had not received the relevant documentation in time.

But General Manager Vince Williams faxed over the information twice, well in time for last Friday night's deadline, only for FA chiefs to mis-lay the information and call back to say the cut-off point hadn't been met.

It means that Macca goes into the big game with just 13 fit players, paving the way for at least two youngsters to grab a glorious opportunity in the first team limelight.

A disappointed Macca said: "Obviously I would rather go into the match with Geoff Pitcher than without him but rules are rules and if the FA say they didn't receive the forms on time then we must accept their decision.

"I've also got Ronnie Girvan, Paul Harkness and Stuart Reeks cup-tied, and while Dean Green is struggling with an ankle injury, it leaves me with just 14 - and that's including Dean. I think it's fair to say the team will pick itself.

"I haven't seen the reserves play since the start of the season but I'll be going down tonight (Wednesday) to watch a few of the younger lads. Who knows, a good performance tonight and they could find themselves on the bench for Saturday."

The transfer embargo surrounding the club following Graham Westley's refusal to pay wages owed to Jim Rodwell, has put Macca in an unenviable position. He can't sign any more youngsters on Conference forms, so even his options in the reserve team set-up are limited.

The good news for Macca, however, is that Chris Piper and Christian Lee both return from suspension as Boro look to go with what they've got and knock out third-place Halifax on the way to reaching the FA Trophy quarter-finals for only the second time in the club's history.

Piper and Lee are expected to slot back into the back four but it's Pitcher's absence and Green's worrying ankle which gives McDonald the headache in midfield areas with a place on the right flank effectively up for grabs.

Rocky Baptiste, who is understood to have turned down personal terms for a move to join Westley at Stevenage this week, insists he is happy at Farnborough, and could be asked to play a floating role behind a front two of Ken Charlery and Joff Vansittart.

Young Danny Potter is another option but Macca is not giving up hope of Green making the squad.

The FA Trophy may not be at the top of Macca's priorities at the moment, but having won it both with Woking and Kingstonian, he knows just what getting to a final can do for a club.

He explained: "In those days the final was at Wembley, but wherever it's held, it's a day to remember for everybody. It's the non-League FA Cup and everyone wants to win it.

"If you look at it, with us playing Halifax, Yeovil playing Northwich and other Conference sides facing difficult opposition from lower leagues, there could well be only two or three Conference clubs left in the competition come the quarter-finals."

Lady Luck has hardly shined down on Macca and his men of late with controversial penalty decisions seemingly robbing them of results against both Dagenham and Yeovil, so surely Boro are owed one.

Macca concluded: "We are playing great football, putting in great performances but we are not winning matches. That's three without a win now, so I'm going to tell the boys to play rubbish this time in the hope of getting a result!"

Saturday's opponents are as tough as they come in the Conference these days, and after the Shaymen knocked Boro out of the FA Cup last season and registered a 1-0 win at The Shay just last month, Boro are out for revenge.

Their 1-0 win at Scarborough on Saturday was their fifth win in six Conference league games and lifted them to third in the table.