Hartlepool Utd v Exeter City: Jones hopes for double fitness boost to increase options

Dave Jones hopes to have a fitness boost for Hartlepool United's vital home date with Exeter City tomorrow.

Friday, 3rd March 2017, 6:30 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:19 am
Battling back to fitness: Sean Kavanagh

Defenders Sean Kavanagh and Matthew Bates are both back in training after recovering from hamstring trouble, while the manager is awaiting news on Billy Paynter after the skipper had an injection in his Achilles.

Bates has not featured since limping off with a hamstring strain early in last month’s 3-0 defeat at Luton Town, while Kavanagh has sat out the last two matches.

Paynter has yet to play under Jones, with the 32-year-old’s last appearance coming as a sub in the 1-0 defeat at Crawley, Craig Hignett’s final game in charge.

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“We’re hoping we can get one or two back, we’ll leave it as late a possible,” said Jones, who will consult with physio Ian Gallagher. “We’ll work with what we have at the moment but if Buster [Gallagher] tells us we have more back then that’s a bonus.

“Sean and Batesy are back in and we’ll have to wait and see how Billy is.

“It looked like he’d be needing an op but they are trying something different to see if it will help him.

“Hopefully it’ll work, they don’t think it is severe enough to warrant an operation.

“If we can get two back, brilliant. If it’s three then that’s even better.”

Kavanagh could be a contender to return to the starting XI though the on-loan Fulham defender is likely to have to be content with a spot on the bench.

Jones spoke highly of Liam Donnelly at his media conference after the former Fulham man file in smoothly at left-back.

Donnelly could be switched to right-back in place of Kenton Richardson, though that would be harsh on the teenager.

Jones will almost certainly keep faith with the back four following their clean sheet in the 4-0 midweek spree against Crewe.

That means Bates too would have to settle for a substitute role, with Scott Harrison and Brad Walker having seemingly cemented their central defensive partnership.

The only likely alteration to the side will be up front where Padraig Amond would be favourite to start ahead of Louis Rooney.

Amond bagged his 12th goal of the season, having come on as a second-half sub for Rooney, who was unfortunate to be stuck alone up top during the worst part of the home performance.

At least the return of some of the walking wounded will mean Pools will have a full quota of subs.

They have gone into the last three matches with only six on the bench, with Jones arguing that none of the fringe players had warranted a place in the match-day 18.

Pools (probable: Fryer, Richardson, Walker, Harrison, Donnelly, Featherstone, Woods, Alessandra, Thomas, Oates, Amond

Subs (from): Bartlett, Martin, Bates, Kavanagh, Hawkins, Hawkes, Rooney, Smith

Exeter (probable): Olejnik, Stacey, Brown, Moore-Taylor, Woodman, Wheeler, James, Taylor, Harley, Reid, Watkins

Subs: Grant, McAlinden, Tillson, Oakley, McAlinden, Hamon, Croll, Sweeney