HARTLEPOOL United boss Ronnie Moore is hoping to have more options to choose from ahead of crucial back-to-back festive fixtures.
Pools, who are bottom of Sky Bet League Two, travel to Mansfield Town on Boxing Day before entertaining Morecambe at Victoria Park two days later.
Struggling Pools have a few walking wounded, and numbers have been light on the training pitches this week, but Moore is hoping to have some key players back from injury.
Moore should be able to call on right-back Michael Duckworth with the full-blooded defender having trained at Maiden Castle this week following a groin strain.
He has been missing since limping off in the home defeat to York City in November.
Brad Walker, meanwhile, who missed the weekend draw with Oxford United has trained after a niggling knee injury and Tommy Miller could be set for a return against Morecambe after a long-standing calf problem.
The 35-year-old hasn’t played since the end of October and his next appearance will be the 600th of his career.
Winger Jack Compton, who has just returned from knee surgery, has been sent home with a stomach upset but Moore is still hopeful to be able to call on him over the next two matches.
Moore told SportMail: “Brad Walker trained on Monday but was stiff so he didn’t train yesterday.
“It is a precaution more than anything else.
“Joe [Ironside] hurt his ankle and probably won’t train for a couple of days while Marlon [Harewood] is a bit stiff but he probably hasn’t run about as much as he did the other day for a while!
“He is just feeling the aches and pains that you get when you are 35 and at that age you have to look after him.
“I will have a word with him that he doesn’t have to train every day.
“As long as he can produce and perform that work ethic which goes with the strength that he has got then he is a handful against anybody at this level.
“Michael [Duckworth] has trained while Mansfield will probably be a bit quick for Tommy but he isn’t a million miles away.
“I’d imagine we get to the Morecambe game and everybody will be wanting to play.
“Jack has gone home with a stomach bug and we didn’t want him around the place.
“He could be missing, we’ll just wait and see how things go with him,” added Moore.