CARETAKER boss Sam Collins looks set to keep the faith with Hartlepool United’s young guns against Exeter City this weekend – but admits he has some “big decisions” to make.
Dan Jones, Lewis Hawkins and Kieran Green all starred in Pools’ 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Victoria Park on Tuesday.
But there were some notable absentees from the squad, including experienced pros Marlon Harewood and club captain Matthew Bates.
Collins is in temporary charge of Pools, supported by Stephen Pears, following Colin Cooper’s resignation.
Harewood and Bates were the highest profile players to miss out in Collins’ first squad as interim manager.
Collins confirmed they are both fit and will be in contention to make the squad at the weekend.
But the pair look set to miss out on a place in the starting line-up when struggling Pools make the long trip to Devon for Saturday’s Sky Bet League Two match.
Collins challenged the younger players to stake their claim and they didn’t disappoint.
Asked whether Harewood and Bates had been rested or dropped, Collinssaid: “It was just my choice to do what I did.
“On Saturday (when he was appointed caretaker), I had my own thoughts in my head.
“I am a strong character and won’t change, whichever way I decided to do things.
“If I believe the way I am doing it is right then that is what I will do.
“They will be in contention for the weekend if they train well.
“The lads rested (Wednesday) and everyone was given heart rate monitors to do an active recovery.
“When we come in today and Friday, whoever impresses me then, if it is still me by Saturday, then I will pick the best team from what I see.
“I told the lads the other night to do well and make it difficult for me to leave them out of the team.
“If it is me in charge, then I have some big decisions to make.”
Collins made four changes to the side beaten 3-0 by Keith Curle’s Carlisle side last weekend, with Harewood, Bates, Darren Holden and Brad Walker all dropped from the starting line-up on Tuesday night.
Left-back Jones, 19, was drafted into defence with Neil Austin moving into central defence.
Meanwhile, midfielders Hawkins and Green also excelled for Collins’ young side, while Connor Smith, 17, was also given a cameo appearance late on.