CARETAKER boss Sam Collins has welcomed the return from injury of “matchwinner” Jack Compton.
The 26-year-old winger has been out more than two months with a knee injury but made his long-awaited return as a sub in the FA Cup second round defeat to Blyth Spartans.
He could now start his first match against promotion-chasing Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium tomorrow (KO 3pm).
Compton came on as a second-half sub as Paul Murray - who paid for defeat with his job - tried unsuccessfully to find a way back into the Spartans match.
Compton got a further 45 minutes under his belt for the reserves in the midweek 1-0 defeat to Scunthorpe United at Glanford Park and Collins has welcomed his return.
Collins said: “Jack Compton got another good 45 minute blast under his belt which is a positive.
“He’s a match-winner on his day so it’s great to be getting him back to full fitness now.”
Compton returned to training at the start of December and his return his a welcome boost to a struggling Pools side lacking in pace and creativity.
He had been missing from the first-team picture since hobbling off just before half-time in the League Two match with Portsmouth at Victoria Park in September.
Scans on his injured knee showed a tear to the lateral meniscus and he needed surgery to repair the problem, which was originally expected to keep him out until the New Year.
Pools, six points adrift of safety, go into tomorrow’s match bottom of the Football League having lost six of their last seven matches in the league.
The Brewers, meanwhile, have former Boro striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink as their manager and sit fourth in League Two.
They drew 1-1 away to Exeter City last weekend in the league and will be looking to build on that on home soil.
Collins, in charge for tomorrow’s match, will be able to call upon Matty Dolan and Scott Fenwick who were forced to sit out the FA Cup match because they were cup tied plus striker Joe Ironside who is on a month-long loan from Sheffield United.
Right-back Michael Duckworth has missed the last two matches with a groin injury but could return to the squad tomorrow, while Tommy Miller is still out with a troublesome calf problem.
Hasselbaink has been without skipper Ian Sharps in recent games with a foot injury while Robbie Weir (groin) is also a doubt with a groin injury.
Lucas Akins is hoping to shake-off an ankle injury while Phil Edwards is back from suspension.
Hartlepool (likely 4-4-2): Flinders, Richards, Bates, Austin, Jones, Featherstone, Hawkins, Dolan, Franks, Harewood, Fenwick.
Subs (from): Maxted, Duckworth, Holden, Lonzani, Campbell, Woods, Schmeltz, Walker, Smith, Ironside.
Burton (likely): McLaughlin, Maynard, Mousinho, Cansdell-Sherriff, McCrory, MacDonald, Lenihan, Weir, Morris, Beavon, Blyth.
Subs: Taft, Knowles, McGurk, Palmer, Slade, Harness, Matthews