HARTLEPOOL United boss Ronnie Moore isn’t afraid of making big decisions and upsetting his players ahead of tomorrow’s long trip to Portsmouth.
Pools take on Pompey at Fratton Park (KO 3pm) with Moore still deciding whether to tinker with his starting line-up and formation.
Many managers would be loathe to change a winning team but following last weekend’s 3-2 win over Plymouth Argyle, Moore could drop some players to give his side the best chance of picking up a result.
Pools are seven points adrift, the gap having been cut by two points, while the hosts are 18th in Sky Bet League Two – just two points above the drop-zone.
Moore is contemplating sticking with a 4-3-3 formation or switching to a 3-5-2 formation to accommodate Scunthorpe United loanee David Mirfin in a back three.
“Portsmouth is a great place to play,” said Moore.
“As a player you go from playing in front of 2,500 to 3,500 up to anything from 12 to 18,000 there tomorrow.
“It’s all about expressing yourself, getting about and showing what you can do.
“But it works in our favour too as a clean sheet will frustrate them and they don’t wait too long before the crowd gets on their backs.
“Go and play without fear, that is the message.
“Our group is better now, we have fresh signings in and someone may miss out, perhaps changing one or two thing including the way we play.
“Someone who played last weekend, who played well, may have to miss out.
“As a manager you have to pick a team to win a game away from home and if it means disappointing someone, then you have to do it.
“It’s tempting to stick with a winning team but you have to look at it all and how we play, how they play.
“It’s been a difficult week in training with the weather, but we have players in now so we can play 4-4-2, 3-5-2, 4-3-3 if we want to and match up.
“We couldn’t do that six weeks ago.”
Tommy Miller (calf) is yet to train following his return from specialist treatment while Stuart Parnaby (knee) is out for the season. Aside from those two, Moore has a fully-fit squad to choose from.
Moore added: “Tommy is hoping for a session on Monday but that is all governed by Buster [Ian Gallagher].
“If he comes back too early then that is another six weeks and his season is over.
“We have to be careful.”
Under-pressure Pompey boss Andy Awford changed to a 3-5-2 formation for the 0-0 draw at Wycombe Wanderers and could stick with that formation.
Fulham loanee Josh Passley is in line to make his home debut but striker Paul McCallum is serving a seven-match ban.
Pools (likely) (4-4-3): Flinders, Duckworth, Harrison, Mirfin, Austin, Bates, Woods, Tshibola, Franks, Fenwick, Morgan.
Subs: (from): Maxted, Richards, Holden, Jones, Nearney, Featherstone, Walker, Compton, Green, Harewood.
Portsmouth (likely) (3-5-2): Jones, Chorley, Robinson, Whatmough, Passley, Hollands, Wallace, Dunne, Butler, Taylor, Tubbs.
Subs: Devera, Barcham, Ertl, Westcarr, Poke, Atangana, Chaplin.