Jim Goodwin says luckless Dundee United star Peter Pawlett looked “close to tears” after limping out of the Tangerines’ 2-0 defeat at Ibrox.
The former Aberdeen and MK Dons star slumped to the Ibrox turf with 20 minutes on the clock and was replaced by Kai Fotheringham.
Goodwin suspects that Pawlett has suffered a recurrence of a previous hamstring complaint.
The 32-year-old was starting a second successive Premiership match for the first time since a nine-month absence that followed Achilles surgery last year.
And Goodwin was devastated for the Terrors playmaker.
“It’s very unfortunate for Pete (Pawlett),” said the Tannadice manager. “It looks like a recurrence of the same injury. The wee man is gutted.
“He is very down, as you can imagine, and he looked close to tears as he was coming off because of how much work he has put in to get fit.
“I emphasised the point to him when I first arrived; what an important player he is to the team and how big a part he has to play between now and the end of the season. He adds goals and has a creative spark.
“In recent games, he has added a bit of quality and to lose him — albeit it is too early to talk about a duration — is disappointing.”
With Dylan Levitt, Liam Smith, Charlie Mulgrew and Glenn Middleton also absent, United do not have their problems to seek on the injury front.
And, with just eight games left to play, Goodwin acknowledges that it is a race against time to get some of his key men fit and firing.
“We haven’t carried a great deal of luck,” he added. “I don’t like talking about injuries because people assume you are making excuses, but we do have key players unavailable.
“Dylan Levitt, Liam Smith, Charlie Mulgrew, Glenn Middleton and now add Pete Pawlett into that group of players; it’s a very difficult challenge for us to be missing so many influential players.
“We are going to have to hurry those ones along because we are running out of time — simple as that.”
United’s defeat — secured courtesy of a Malik Tillman brace — was compounded by Kilmarnock defeating Hearts at Rugby Park.
The Tangerines are now six points adrift of the guaranteed safety of 10th spot.
“It’s the manner of the goals we conceded today that is the most frustrating thing,” added Goodwin. “We get caught ball-watching for the first — although from a Rangers perspective, it’s a good goal.
“We need to do better.
“Even at half-time, we believed we were very much in the game. It was about making sure they didn’t get that second goal and, if we were still in the game with 10 or 15 minutes to go, then we could be more expansive.”