Steven Pressley has described as a “hammer blow” the news that Carlisle midfielder Kelvin Etuhu could miss the start of NEXT season through injury.

United’s boss said Etuhu suffered a “severe” hamstring tear in Monday’s defeat at Grimsby.

Not only is the 30-year-old ruled out of Carlisle’s final two games of this campaign and any potential play-off involvement, a much longer lay-off now seems likely.

“It’s a massive blow for us and a big blow for Kelvin,” Pressley said.

“This has been, since coming here, his most fruitful season, certainly in performances and games played. He’s been a big presence, a big player for us.

“The signs are he could miss not only the remainder of this season but potentially the start of the following season.

“It’s another hammer blow for us at a crucial time. We just have to try to find a way to deal with it in the present situation.”

Pressley said Jamie Devitt (hamstring) will also not be available for this Saturday’s clash with Crawley and would be assessed ahead of the final day’s game at Yeovil. Danny Grainger is also ruled out this weekend.

United’s boss said he will look to improve the recent injury record next season.

“It is frustrating,” he said. “It shows signs of the gruelling season that we are receiving as many injuries as we have.

“We haven’t got the largest of squads. It’s something we’ll try to address to prevent these situations occurring again. All of that will go with the planning for pre-season.”

Striker Mark Cullen returned to action against Grimsby on Monday after several weeks out with a groin injury.

Pressley, though, suggested the Blackpool loan man would not be fit enough to start a game in the near future.

“Cullen just now is a 15-20-minutes [player], maximum,” the manager said.

“We’ve rushed him back, no doubt about that. He’s come back from rehab quicker than we probably expected. But we were short of players, we need to start pushing players.

“Is he absolutely ready? No.”

Pressley, though, praised Cullen’s willingness to play despite being well short of full fitness.

“He was in doing additional work [on Wednesday] and we are trying to get him to a level, but it’s just too soon,” the manager said.