CARETAKER boss Sam Collins insists he is “not scared” to give Hartlepool’s youngsters a run in the side.
The 37-year-old handed full debuts to 17-year-old Kieran Green and Dan Jones, 19, against Sheffield United in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, while Lewis Hawkins, 21, and Michael Woods, who has been on the fringe this season were also handed starts.
Collins, who is overseeing first team affairs alongside coach Stephen Pears, insists he isn’t afraid to start the youngsters again away at Exeter City on Saturday because he knows what they are capable of.
The veteran defender, who won’t play himself in the side as long as he is caretaker, is also reserve team manager at Pools and knows the youngsters well.
He told SportMail: “I am not scared of giving them a run in the team, not one bit.
“I know these lads and what they are capable of and trust them.
“I have played with some of them for a long time and if I haven’t played with them, then I have seen them play since the age of 14.
“I know what they all can do and I am not scared of it.
“I know the situation we are in but if I feel it is right to play them, then I will.
“They are honest and desperate to do well and I was not afraid to play them.”
Experienced pros Marlon Harewood and club captain Matthew Bates were dropped from the squad altogether for the cup match against the Blades and Collins hinted that they may not start on Saturday either.
He will have two extra places on the bench to fill though, with JPT competition only allowing five substitutes, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they made the bench.
Definitely missing the trip to Devon are winger Jack Compton, out for three months with a knee injury that required surgery yesterday, and Stuart Parnaby who is nursing a knee problem.
On-loan Middlesbrough man David Atkinson has missed the last couple of matches with a hamstring strain and it remains to be seen whether he will make the long trip south.
Meanwhile, Grecians boss Paul Tisdale has several injuries to contend with.
Jordan Moore-Taylor was injured during Tuesday’s game at Coventry City, believed to be a recurrence of a broken metatarsal while Liam Sercombe and David Wheeler have both suffered setbacks in their recoveries.
They are set to miss three to four weeks, taking the number of injured players to eight in total. Pat Baldwin, Jamie Reid, David Noble, Craig Woodman and Graham Cummins are also injured.
Pools (likely): Flinders, Duckworth, Austin, Harrison, Jones, Miller, Woods, Hawkins, Green, Brobbel, Wyke.
Subs (from): Woodman, Richards, Holden, Walker, Franks, Harewood, Bates, Smith.