Ronnie Moore is keeping his fingers crossed that striker Billy Paynter is fit to lead Hartlepool United into action against Carlisle in League Two tomorrow.
Moore has described the northern battle at Victoria Park tomorrow as a “massive derby” for Pools, but it’s also a huge match for Paynter, who comes up against the club he played for last season and the manager, Keith Curle, who discarded him.
Pools were the club to benefit from the fall-out, signing the 31-year-old on a free. Made captain by Moore, the striker has made his mark by scoring three times already – a goal more than he managed in 21 appearances at Carlisle.
But Paynter came off at half-time in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup defeat to Bournemouth after complaining of a tight hamstring, leaving him a major doubt for tomorrow.
“We’re just waiting,” said Moore. “It’s touch and go with him. It will be heads or tails, go right down to the wire.
“He felt his hamstring tighten up so we took him off, but I think it’s a bit more than he thought it was.
“But, you know Billy, he wants to play, no doubt about that. I don’t think he has any points to prove to Carlisle and we certainly haven’t got a problem with him.
“He’s come in here and done everything and handled himself realy well.”
But Moore urged caution that the skipper does not try too hard – often a pitfall when a disgruntled ex-player comes up against former employers.
“You have to be careful playing against your old clubs,” warned Moore. “You run along on adrenaline, do too much, charge around and whack someone and you are off.
“It’s game over, off before you know it. To be fair to Billy, he’s played enough games and got enough know-how to know how to handle himself on the pitch. I hope for his sake, he is fit –he’s champing at the bit for this game.”
Should Paynter miss out, Scott Fenwick would lead the line, flanked by Rhys Oates and Rakish Bingham.
The Pools boss has a worry in midfield, where ever-present Michael Woods (ankle) is doubtful and his would-be deputy, Brad Walker (thigh) is out.
Moore is looking for a loan player and, on that subject, Andrew Boyce will continue in the centre of defence alongside ex-Sunderland centre-back Scott Harrison.
The loanee has come in for Matthew Bates, who had replaced Harry Worley, who is close to playing again after recovering from the ankle injury sustained at York.
Worley is likely to resume in Tuesay night’s Johnstone’s Paints Trophy date with Sheffield United at the Vic.
“Harry isn’t far off to be fair,” said Moore. “He will probably be OK for Tuesday but we can’t risk him this week.”
Pools (probable): Bartlett, Duckworth, Harrison, Boyce, Carroll, Magnay, Featherstone, Woods, Paynter, Fenwick, Bingham. Subs: Denton, Jones, Oyenuga, Nelson-Addy, Oates, Smith, Hawkins