DANE Ballard may need surgery before he can return to the field to help Deveronvale try and recapture their form of last season.
While Vale slumped to a shock 4-0 home defeat to Strathspey Thistle on Saturday, their star striker Ballard remains on the sidelines looking for a clear diagnosis on his knee injury.
The man who netted 25 goals for 'Vale last term hasn't kicked a ball in two months after taking a sore one in the 2-0 win at Rothes on September 1.
Ballard revealed how the swelling was so bad he couldn't see his kneecap for weeks, and is still awaiting a scan to determine whether or not he will need an operation.
"It's so frustrating. All the doctors and physios are leaning towards cartilage damage but nobody really knows," he said.
"Until I get a scan I won't find out. I'd obviously like to know before the end of the year but I'm on a waiting list so I don't know how I'm going to speed things up."
Should a scan reveal cartilage damage, it's likely Ballard would need keyhole surgery but depending on how quickly he can get an op, his recovery seems to be a slow process.
"I just remember knocking the ball past the Rothes midfielder and my foot planted in the ground, he hit me in the knee from the outside pushing inwards and I fell the opposite way," he said.
"I felt something over-exert, or pop or click, that kind of feeling. I tried to carry on thinking I could run it off but as soon as I started running, I felt the swelling come up. I couldn't see my kneecap for about two weeks. It was crazy with all the fluid round about it. It was massive."
During his time out, Ballard hasn't been attending many games due to a family illness.
In his absence, 'Vale have struggled to find the goals to punish opponents when they have them under the cosh.
The striker will be glad he didn't have to watch Saturday's dismal defeat against a fast-improving Strathspey who exploited every 'Vale weakness on the day.
Indeed it was the first time the Grantown club had ever defeated Deveronvale since coming into the Highland League and they did it in some style.
The writing was on the wall for Stevie Dolan's 'Vale boys when keeper Errol Watson had to pull off two good saves early on to keep his team on a level footing.
Watson was helpless to prevent Scott Lisle from firing home the first of a Thistle hat trick on 37 minutes.
It got worse for the home team when defender Michael Dunn scored an own-goal on the hour mark.
Defender Kyle Willox then got in a fankle with keeper Watson and Lisle took advantage to increase Jags' advantage to three.
The same player completed his treble 10 minutes from time, consigning Vale to a demoralising loss.
Dolan will be challenging his men to prove themselves when they take on the distinctively tougher task of trying to defeat unbeaten leaders Cove Rangers in Aberdeen on Wednesday night.
After that 'Vale play host to Keith in a Banffshire derby on Saturday.