PIRATES promoter Matt Ford expects Darcy Ward to face at least a month on the sidelines following his New Zealand Grand Prix spill.

Ward sustained a broken thumb, soft tissue damage in his left knee and concussion after being wiped out by shock eventual champion Martin Smolinski at Western Springs on Saturday.

Those injuries ruled Ward out of the opening meeting of Poole’s Elite League title defence at home to Eastbourne tonight.

Speaking yesterday lunchtime, Ford told the Daily Echo: “Realistically we’re looking at four weeks, although some people might say four to six weeks, but I think Darcy would like to return quicker than that.

“I think he might have to take that risk when it comes to the Grand Prix, as otherwise his chances could be over.

“Darcy is en route and as soon as he gets home, he is sending his X-rays off to his Polish club. Then he will speak to a specialist to see how quickly he can return.”

Ford is hoping that Pirates asset and Bearwood resident Chris Holder can provide cover, but talks have been limited given Holder’s involvement in New Zealand.

“Chris and myself have been in discussions,” said Ford.

“The biggest problem is Chris’s lack of equipment over here as he didn’t expect to be riding in the UK.

“He certainly couldn’t have got anything ready in time for Eastbourne, although we briefly discussed the possibility.

“He’s en route from New Zealand and we need him to land so we can find out if he can cover for Darcy over the next month. If it happens, I’ll be over the moon.”

Meanwhile, Ford has admitted that he attempted to sign Belle Vue’s Craig Cook – guesting in place of Ward tonight – ahead of the 2013 season.

The Pirates chief is a huge admirer of the Cumbrian’s talents and is delighted to have the youngster on board, if only temporarily.

Ford said: “I’m quite a big fan of Craig Cook’s and I did try to sign him last year, but unfortunately it didn’t work out.

“It’s more convenient for him to be in Manchester so he can ride there and travel up to Edinburgh to ride in the Premier League.

“It wasn’t meant to be which is a great shame, because I would have loved to have another progressive young British rider at the club.

“Craig really is something and he could go on to reach the top. Although he’s only filling a guest booking for us this time, we’re really pleased he’s on board.”