COLIN Cooper will give Neil Austin time to prove his fitness for Hartlepool United’s League Two trip to Dagenham & Redbridge tomorrow.
Pools’ captain has been hobbling around all week after suffering a badly bruised big toe in last week’s goalless draw against Scunthorpe.
Wearsider Jordan Richards, free from suspension, is on stand-by to come in if the 30-year-old does not make it.
“Neil bruised his toe in a really brave challenge,” Cooper said. “He’s a tough lad but it’s black and blue and very sore.
“The plus-point is Jordan Richards’ suspension is over, so if Neil is not quite ready, Jordan is more than capable of doing that job for us.
“We’re lucky Jordan’s there if we need him, but I’m sure, knowing Aussie, if he can play he’ll be doing his best.”
The right-back spot is not the only position where Cooper could have a decision to make.
Last week against Scunthorpe he moved Marlon Harewood down to the bench and brought in Jack Barmby in a forward role.
“Marlon has ploughed through two games for us and I wanted to go with youthful energy last week and gave Jack Barmby a start,” Cooper explained.
“We have options, it’s a case of going there and being solid enough to have a foothold in the game and we have people out there to create problems.”
Sam Collins will continue at the heart of the defence alongside Christian Burgess.
Cooper is happy to give the 36-year-old a run in the side and is in no rush to bring in a new defender – unless there are any injuries.
“Jack leaving has given Sam the impetus for the rest of the season,” he said.
“But if something happened to Christian or Sam it would leave us a little bit short and we’d have to look at it.
“We will look for the future but now big Sam has a chance.
“He showed last week what a tremendous professional he is
“You could tell he was enjoying himself and that he grew into the game.
“You want that from an experienced player who can have a positive impact on the game and those players around him.”
Hartlepool (probable): Flinders, Austin, Collins, Burgess, Holden, Williams, Walton, Walker, Monkhouse, Barmby, James. Subs (from): Rafferty, Richards, Hawkins, Sweeney, Compton, Poole, Harewood, Rodney