IF Hartlepool United are to end the season on a high they are going to have to do it minus their magic man.
Jack Barmby’s ultra-cool finishes against Morecambe and Plymouth have brought Pools four points out of six in the last two games.
But the in-form teenager is suffering from illness so unless there is a miraculous recovery, he has played his last game for Pools.
His late winner against Morecambe, which secure the club’s Football League status, and the sublime chip at Playmouth last Saturday were calmness personified.
Boss Colin Cooper said the 19-year-old was desperate to play against Exeter City tomorrow but held out little hope of that happening.
“Jack is struggling for the weekend,” he exlained.
“He has come down with an ear and throat infection.
“He was at Manchester United earlier in the week and I spoke to him on Wednesday.
“He is struggling, he desperately wants to play.
“But unless his anti-biotics do something magical, he won’t be involved.”
With Luke James already out with an ankle problem, the likelihood is that Cooper will pair either James Poole or Jonathan Franks up front with Marlon Harewood.
Cooper will probably start with another of the Easter Monday saviours – Jack Compton.
The winger came off the bench at Plymouth after Andy Monkhouse complained of a tight hamstring and came desperately close to a late winner, only to see his shot come back off Jake Cole’s left-hand post with the keeper beaten.
Cooper has three of the club’s young pros on the bench – Dan Jones, Lewis Hawkins and Josh Rowbotham, along with Jordan Richards, who has made 17 appearances.
He is unlikely to start with any of the aforementioned players though they clould get some match exposure from the bench.
“There are some good young players here and if they deserve an opportunity then I have no qualms or fears about doing it,” said Cooper.
“The players that were involved at Plymouth will be the main body of the team for definite, that goes without saying, with the younger players as the back up.”
Exeter boss Paul Tisdale could be set to give young prospects Ollie Watkins and Jordan Tillson their full Grecians debuts.
The manager said when Watkins signed his first professional deal at the club last week, that the forward would have made his City debut earlier this season had the team not been involved in a relegation battle.
However, following a brilliant win over promoted Scunthorpe which secured their League Two place, he admits now would be the perfect time to blood both Watkins and defender Tillson.
Pools (probable): Flinders, Duckworth, Collins, Harrison, Holden, Compton, Oliver, Walker, Monkhouse, Franks, Harewood.
Subs: Rafferty, Richards, Jones, Hawkins, Poole, Rowbotham
Exeter (possible): Pym, Dawson, Tillson, Coles, Woodman, Sercombe, Bennett, Oakley, Wheeler, Watkins, Nichols