Dave Jones will give Rhys Oates every possible chance to be fit for Hartlepool United’s eagerly-awaited home League Two clash with Portsmouth tomorrow.
Oates had been in cracking form until limping off with a thigh problem in the 1-0 win at Cambridge.
The 22-year-old has not played in the subsequent defeats, to Wycombe and Blackpool, though he was named on the bench at Bloomfield Road.
Jones, though, revealed that the forward could not have played after feeling a twinge in the warm-up.
“He was back in the squad at Blackpool, but he pulled up in the warm-up, he felt it, so we pulled him out straight away,” said the boss.
“We’ve been doing stuff with him this week and we’ve had the help of a local gym to do work there.
“Hopefully that will benefit him and we’ll assess him. We will wait on Rhys and a couple of other knocks.”
Three of the club’s most senior men – Billy Paynter, Trevor Carson and Carl Magnay – have yet to play under Jones and the manager said there is a chance one could feature against Pompey at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.
“Billy has had an operation and he’s out for the season,” said the 60-year-old. “Trevor isn’t going to ready. We are looking at Mags to see maybe if he is on the bench.”
Jones is likely to keep faith with the side which performed well at Blackpool without reward
The return of Oates, who has provided a different dimension for Pools would be a major boost for his manager, who will probably use him on the bench.
Jones is desperate to have an impact player, or two, among the seven subs at his disposal.
“It is a problem we have at the moment,” he said.
“Look at last Saturday’s game, Blackpool were able to bring on three players who can come on and change the game.
“We aren’t at that level yet.
“The players we can bring on are not quite ready for first-team football, they probably won’t change the game for you.
“Sometimes you want to take someone off, but that makes you weaker, that’s no disrespect to the youngsters we have – they are good but still learning their trade.”
Portsmouth boss Paul Cook is set to make two changes to his third-top team.
Former Pools star Christian Burgess will return at centre-half after missing their win over Newport County through suspension.
The 25-year-old will replace Tom Davies while there will be an enforced alteration up front where Eoin Doyle is out with a groin injury, with Noel Hunt or Conor Chaplin his two options for the central role.
Pools (probable): Fryer, Donnelly, Walker, Harrison, Deverdics, Featherstone, Hawkins, Woods, Alessandra, Thomas, Amond.
Subs (from): Dudzinski, Magnay, Richardson, Bates, Hawkes, Oates, Rooney, Rodney.
Portsmouth (probable): Forde, Evans, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens, Rose, M Doyle, Baker, Naismith, Bennett, Hunt
Subs (from): O’Brien, Davies, Whatmough, Lowe, Chaplin, Linganzi, Talbot, Kabamba.