Defensive dilemma for Pools boss as Duckworth, Jones stake claims for returns

Hartlepool United defender Rob Jones
Hartlepool United defender Rob Jones
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Craig Hignett is facing a welcome defensive headache, with Michael Duckworth and Rob Jones both available for selection again.

Hartlepool United registered their longest run of clean sheets in two years when they beat AFC Wimbledon 1-0 on Friday, yet boss Hignett has two players waiting in the wings who are putting pressure on the current back four.

Centre-half Jones is back after recovering from head injury, while right-back Duckworth is also back in the fold following a groin problem.

There were fears that Duckworth could miss the remainder of the season and require a hernia operation, but the 23-year-old has resumed full training to leave Hignett with a non-existent injury list.

“We have got players coming back,” said Hignett.

“Duckworth has now started joining in in training. Jones has joined in too, so we have no-one who is injured.”

Hignett has named an unchanged line-up for the last three games, but expects to introduce fresh legs at Leyton Orient today (3pm kick-off) for the second game in the space of 72 hours.

“I think we’ll have to (freshen it) with only a couple of days between the games,” he said.

“We’ve got a couple of bangs and knocks.

“Mags (Carl Magnay) took a knock to his ankle (against Wimbledon) and Gray one to his foot as well.”

Pools face an Orient side who suffered a 1-0 defeat at Accrington on Friday, but the Brisbane Road outfit are just one point adrift of the League Two play-offs.

There will be a familiar face in the opposition dug-out for Hignett too, with fellow Scouser and ex-Newcastle United midfielder Kevin Nolan.

Hignett added: “I know Kev quite well. He’s obviously from Liverpool.

“He’s a good lad. They’ve had a defeat at Accrington which is a tough place to go, but they like to play football like us.”