SOUTHEND United manager Kevin Bond must check on the fitness of a number of players before finalising his starting line-up for tomorrow’s clash with Rochdale at Roots Hall.

Defensive duo Nathan Ralph and John White both missed Tuesday’s Carabao Cup defeat to MK Dons with injuries.

And Bond is not sure whether or not they will be fit to face Dale.

“John is working hard with the physio to see if we can get him fit,” said the former Bournemouth boss.

“He took a whack on his ankle and I’m not sure if he will be out tomorrow.

“It’s the same with Nathan too.

“At this stage I’m not sure if he will play.

“We will give him every chance to recover but we will have to see how it goes.

“His hamstring felt worse after the game on Saturday and we don’t want to take risks with anyone.

“We would much rather someone misses one game than coming back, not doing yourself justice and then missing four or five games.

“But a number of people are struggling with knocks so we’ll have to leave it as long as we can before we know who will be available to us.”

Bond confirmed Jason Demetriou would be fit to feature after making his comeback from a knee injury against MK Dons.

And defender Rob Kiernan - who suffered an ankle injury on the eve of the campaign - is also closing in on his first appearance of the season after being on the bench for the last two games.

“Rob was on the bench so he’s there or thereabouts,” said Bond.

“The only thing is he hasn’t had much game time recently.

“He’s looked sharp in training and he’s been back for a week or so now.”

Long-term absentees Tom Hopper and Sam Barratt, who both suffered cruciate ligament injuries last season, are still sidelined along with Harry Kyprianou, who has an Achilles injury.

Timothee Dieng is also still working his way back to full fitness from a calf problem while Stephen McLaughlin is struggling with an ankle problem which has forced him to miss the last three games.

“Stephen McLaughlin has hurt his ankle,” confirmed Bond.

“He hurt his ankle, I think against Millwall, if I remember rightly.

“He felt it against Coventry and then after Stevenage as well.

“After the Lincoln game he’s had to have an injection but I’m not sure how long it will rule him out for.

“Hopefully it won’t be too long.”