Defender set for long-awaited Hartlepool United return?

Matthew Bates in action for Hartlepool United.

Matthew Bates in action for Hartlepool United.

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Matthew Bates could be set for a long-awaited return from a foot problem.

But news is less certain on fellow central defender Rob Jones, who looks set for an extended spell on the sidelines.

“There has been no setback with either of them it is just taking some extra time.”

Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett denied either player had suffered a set-back in their respective bids to return to first-team duty in recent weeks.

Thirty-six-year-old Jones, who has a hip issue, has played just three games so far this season and has been out of action the beginning of September.

Bates, who has been suffering with bone bruising in his foot, has not kicked a ball since August.

And while it is expected Bates will step up his return bid this week, Jones is said to be still some way off.

When asked whether Jones had a chance of a Leyton Orient return this weekend, Hignett said: “No. He is not there.

“Rob is still struggling a bit. He’s just really slow to respond to stuff.

“He will feel OK then will go out and do stuff and it will be all swollen.

“He will want to do a bit then do a bit then he will be out for days.

“It is frustrating for him because he wants to play. And I know how much of a good influence he is about the place.”

On Bates the news has been much better.

The former England youth international returned to training last week.

And should there be no adverse reactions to the foot problem, he could be just a fortnight away from selection.

Hignett continued: “Batesy has upped his training a bit and it could be a couple of weeks for him.

“There has been no setback with either of them it is just taking some extra time.”

Hignett could do with some defensive reinforcements, especially given the way his players showed up at the weekend.

Despite coping with most of what Carlisle had to throw at them, three lapses in concentration at the back cost them dear at Brunton Park.

Hignett says some finger pointing has been done. And those who made the errors have stood up and been counted in the Pools’ dressing-room.

“We have said it all in the dressing room, pointed the finger and that’s probably the most disappointed I’ve been in the dressing room,” he said.

“That’s not because of the performance, it’s because we threw the game away.

“What we have done is criminal against a team decent at set-pieces. Players switch off and you can’t do that.

“First-half we passed it well, they couldn’t get near us.

“It’s disappointing that you prepare your players like we do and then lose a game.

“It’s fine margins. We have looked a good side again, but lost.

“We did everything we wanted in open play, the game went how I wanted it to and they only looked like scoring from set-pieces.”