Defender’s recovery could force Pools’ boss Hignett’s hand

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Craig Hignett is toying with the idea of returning to three at the back.

But the fitness of Rob Jones could prove to be the key factor in deciding whether the system gets an airing at Plymouth tomorrow.

We have got the personnel to (play three at the back) but we are probably struggling to do it with Rob’s injury

Craig Hignett

Hignett admits that he feels a three man central defensive partnership is what suits the personnel in his Hartlepool United squad best.

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But, as yet, he has been unable to deploy the formation because of injuries.

And while he says he’s considering a switch for the trip to Plymouth this weekend, the deal breaker could be whether Jones, who despite positive noises earlier in the week is still deemed a doubt, is 100% to travel.

“We have got the personnel to do it but at the moment we are probably struggling to do it with Rob’s injury,” said Hignett.

“So, it worked well at Yeovil in the first half. We knew we had to do something after Stevenage and it was something I had wanted to do in pre-season but never really got the chance.

“I have got the players to play it. It suits a lot of

them.

“We will do it game by game and see how they play. I will then decide whether we will go that way or not.”

Whatever the formation, style or system Hignett says his players are flexible enough to adapt.

He continued: “The lads I have got know exactly what they are doing no matter what we play.

“We have played 4-3-3 most of my time here. We played 4-4-2 at the start of the season. And we have played three at the back and the diamond.

“My players are really flexible. For me that is good it gives me the chance to set up the team how I want to.

“It means I don’t have to do loads of work on the systems because they know what they are doing.

“This year I will swap it game by game depending on the opposition.”

On the injury front Jones is still rated as 50/50 to travel to Home Park.

Hignett is hopeful the 36-year-old will be fit, but as he revealed in the Mail on Wednesday, the match is almost certain to come around too soon for Matthew Bates.

When asked about the duo, he gaffer said: “They are not a million miles away.

“Rob is doing some light stuff this week, we are just seeing how he reacts.

“Matty Bates might be a little bit longer. He has got a bit of bone bruising.

“We will see how long it takes for the bruising to die down and then he can step it up.

“It might be the case that we have to give them a few more days.”

One player who may well have forced his way into the reckoning tomorrow is Jordan Richards.

The full-back was an unused sub last weekend against the Stags with Hignett opting to throw in Liam Donnelly on the right after Carl Magnay, who will be out for six months, was taken off with a knee problem.

But Hignett has been impressed by Richards’ attitude this week. He said: “He was excellent for the reserves in the week - he showed a great attitude.

“He is a great lad anyway. He showed he is wanting to have a go.

“We have got a lot of games coming up.

“And with Carl’s injury the will be extra onus on the defender’s to step up.”