Hartlepool United v Exeter City: You can just tell Billy Paynter is itching to play
Billy Paynter did not quite say 'pick me' but you can tell it's on his mind.
Hartlepool United’s talisman is close to making his comeback – and it could come tomorrow against Exeter City.
Pools have missed Paynter – despite being out since early November he is still the leading scorer with seven goals.
Should he look sharp in training today, boss Ronnie Moore may well just take a lunch and let the skipper loose on the Grecians, or certainly include him in his match-day 18.
“I’m nearly back, I’m getting there,” said the striker.
“It’s been a slow process, but you need time after an Achilles injury.
“I felt strong and good after playing for the reserves last week – it dusted off the cobwebs.
“I’m hoping I can work my way back onto the bench.
“Last week’s game against Rotherham has given me the confidence to kick on and push it.
“It’s up to the manager when he wants to put me back in.
“I will be waiting for that moment!”
Paynter’s presence at Cambridge last week set tongues (and Twitter) wagging.
Had Moore pulled a flanker? Had he told the media one thing – that Paynter would NOT play and then pick him?
But the 31-year-old admitted he knew his role would be the same as it was the previous Saturday, to aid the squad in their preparations.
“I was happy to have gone to Cambridge last week, even though I knew I was not going to be in the squad,” he said.
“I got to train with the lads on Friday and I helped them warm-up before the game.
“I’m not a player who spits out his dummy, I was happy to help out the lads and try to pass on a bit of experience.
“I have been watching from the stands and that’s been frustrating because I want to be out there helping the lads.
“But I was pleased to be involved on a matchday and have a bit of input.”
Paynter was encouraged by the display at the Abbey Stadium, where Pools came agonisingly close to back-to-back Saturday 1-0 wins.
There was a great reaction by the side following the midweek 3-1 defeat at Accrington in between.
“We were in high spirits after beating Wycombe,” Paynter told SportMail. “But we then went to Accrington and didn’t really perform.
“We needed to bounce back at Cambridge and I felt we did, we were a bit unlucky not to hold out.
“I felt we could have come back with a win, unfortunately we just switched off a bit at the end and the runner got in for the equaliser.
“We were disappointed to concede late, but had we been offered a point beforehand we’d probably have taken it.
“But as the manager said afterwards that if we keep playing like that then we’ll turn things around.”
Paynter is aware Exeter will provide a different sort of threat to the one brought by the U’s.
“Having watched the Liverpool games, Exeter are playing really well,” said the forward. “They pass and move.
“Their manager has a philosophy and they stick to it, you don’t see them going long.
“We have to have the same attitude and work-rate we had at Cambridge but take our chances and get the win.
“The two games against Wycombe and Cambridge have shown progress. Now, we need wins and we need to start climbing the table.”