Collins stays as Hartlepool skipper, with Austin out again

Hartlepool's Sam Collins (stripes) in action against Scunthorpe. Picture by Frank Reid

Hartlepool's Sam Collins (stripes) in action against Scunthorpe. Picture by Frank Reid

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SAM Collins will continue as Hartlepool United captain for tomorrow’s crucial Sky Bet League Two clash with Newport County.

The former skipper was handed the armband at Dagenham & Redbridge last Saturday after Neil Austin failed to recover from a painful toe injury.

Almost one week on, Austin is still struggling with the problem so Collins will again lead the side.

Michael Duckworth, arguably one of Pools’ players of the first half of the season, is returning to fitness after his double hernia operation, but Sunderland-born Jordan Richards will remain at right-back in place of Austin.

“Neil is sore,” said Cooper. “We hoped he would be OK last week and he trained Thursday and was OK.

“But after we trained on Friday he struggled, so we sent him for an X-ray on Monday to rule out a broken toe and that was the case.

“He’s OK on that front, but is still very sore.

“But, as I said after he injured it against Scunny, it’s a real difficult one as you use your toe for everything.

“Michael is back in training and thankfully everyone else is OK.”

Cooper’s main selection issue will be the make-up of his forward line.

He used Jack Barmby up front in the last home game against Scunthorpe, but played Marlon Harewood at Victoria Road where Pools beat the Daggers 2-0.

Harewood and Luke James certainly look an effective pairing up top, so Cooper may opt to start with the seasoned campaigner and use Barmby as an impact sub.

Whoever Cooper sends out, he will be looking to see Pools record back-to-back wins for the first time since early November.

After a good run of displays, the shut-out win against the Daggers not only was a reward for their play but moved them up to 11th in a congested central area of the table.

“It was a nice time to get a victory,” Cooper explained.

“We could quite easily – being greedy – have taken 12 points from the last four games.

“We’ve taken seven, which is good, but we’ve played well enough to win all four.

“We have to accept where we are – we have had positive results of late and know, if mother nature is kind, Newport will provide us with a stiff test.

“Newport haven’t played for a long time because of the weather – they will be frustrated and perhaps be a bit ring-rusty.

“On the other hand, they will have a freshness about themselves, while we and other teams have been playing regularly.

“Hopefully, from our point of view, there is something to take advantage of.

“Personally, if Newport are fresh or not, we are in good shape to give them a good game.

“There are little incentives for each game for us and ours is to climb above Newport and see where that takes us.

“If that’s the case, then I will be very happy.”

Pools – and Cooper – remain confident the game will beat the weather.

“The forecast is not great for the weekend,” he said.

“The pitch is wet, but we’ve had some wind and sun on it and Dave Brown and his people have worked hard on it.

“We can only see how it goes.

“We’ll have to hope the VIc holds up and get a game and try to continue that bit of momentum we have.”