IT GOES against the grain for any footballer to complain about playing too much.

For those approaching the latter years of their career, every minute out on the pitch is likely to count even more.

Clayton Donaldson is certainly getting his money’s worth currently as the senior figure of City’s depleted attack.

Since Lee Novak’s calf injury after the Newport game on October 24, the 36-year-old has started all six league games and two in the FA Cup.

Other than being left out of a youthful line-up for the Papa John’s Trophy, his only break in that full-on run has been for half an hour at Tonbridge and the last knockings of the home win over doomed Southend.

Stuart McCall spoke after City’s FA Cup exit about being unable to take Donaldson out of the firing line.

It was not because he wanted to drop him – but just to allow the most senior member of the dressing room a bit of a breather.

But given the current circumstances in terms of results and lack of personnel, that is simply not an option.

Donaldson will once more be asked to plough a furrow as target man against Cheltenham - one of the most physical defences in League Two.

Not that you will hear him complaining.

Donaldson said: “Obviously you get the wear and tear on your body, especially when you get to my age, so to get a little breather for five or 10 minutes towards the end of the game would be good.

“But at the same time, ask any player and they’d rather play all the time – I’m in a position to do that at the moment.

“Whether it’s doing my body any good or not, I don’t know. But with the injuries, it’s probably near enough impossible to rotate given the players we have available.

“But I’ll always put my body on the line for the cause and step up to give 90 minutes.

“If I feel like I can’t give any more, I’m not going to be stupid and try to play through it. That would just make it 10 times worse.

“At the same time, if I’m okay to carry on then I won’t say anything to the manager and staff.”

As Lee Novak and Kurtis Guthrie continue their recovery, the onus remains on Donaldson as the only genuine centre forward still standing. But he insists the responsibility of leading line is nothing new.

“There always has been throughout my career by being that one at Birmingham and some times at Brentford. I was the one up top at Bolton to take all the hits.

“I’m used to it and it’s something that I’ve always relished.

“You need big characters in situations like this. I’ll put my name down to be one of those and we need a lot more of them now.

“We haven’t won in a while and you look at where we are in the league. We need people to lead and spur on those around them.”

City’s injury list shows no sign of easing. The return of Callum Cooke, Gareth Evans and Bryce Hosannah at the weekend was balanced with the loss of Zeli Ismail, Levi Sutton and Reece Staunton.

The news that the teenage defender faces at least three months out is the latest blow for a squad under the cosh.

Donaldson said: “It’s really disappointing because he’s been doing well in his first full season. It’s a massive blow.

“That’s another miss we’re going to have to try and manage but as a young player, I’m sure he will come back stronger than ever.

“He’s got to keep his head. It’s not good a place when you’re injured and it’s a mental test.”