Five players who could step into Nathan Thomas’ boots at Hartlepool United

Billy Paynter

Billy Paynter

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Injured wideman Nathan Thomas is set for an extended spell on the sidelines at Hartlepool United.

While Craig Hignett admits it is a massive blow to his plans ahead of the FA Cup this weekend, he believes the news is also the perfect chance for someone else to stake a first-team claim.

Here we take a look at five players who could potentially fill the void left by Thomas.

Billy Paynter

Bringing the veteran frontman back into the side would prove a popular move by Hignett.

But it is unlikely Paynter will come back in the two up top so many Pools fans crave.

Hignett has recently expressed his dislike of 4-4-2. He believes the system is less attacking than 4-3-3.

And given the form of Padraig Amond, it’s very unlikely that Hignett will turn away from the Irishman. Well, in the short term anyway.

His workrate, not just his goals, is something that the manager admires.

For all his leadership qualities and goalscoring ability, that is just something that 32-year-old Paynter, who played 90 minutes for the reserves on Wednesday, can no longer contribute.

Nicky Deverdics

A player who is yet to really assert his authority at Pools.

Since signing from Dover in the summer, Deverdics, who was courted by a number of League Two clubs in the summer, including high-flying in Carlisle United, a starting place has been hard to come by.

He has made 13 appearances for the club, but just four of those have been league starts.

These two cup games (Rochdale follows in the Checkatrade Trophy on Wednesday) could be just the type of games the former Gretna, Barnet and Alfreton man needs to establish himself.

Michael Woods

Having just returned from injury, Woods is crying out for games at present.

And in the week manager Hignett has hinted that the midfielder could be on the verge of getting a chance in the side.

A key player for Pools in the past, he has found it difficult to get back in after a month out with injury.

The form of Josh Laurent and Lewis Hawkins, in particular, has made it impossible for Hignett to mix things up in the centre.

Jake Orrell

The youngster has been one of the stand-out performers for Sam Collins’ reserve side this season. That fact has not been lost on Hignett.

Every time the gaffer speaks about his forwards and wide options, he makes the point of bringing Orrell’s name into the equation.

Slight and skilled, Orrell may not quite be 100% ready to step up to first-team duty week-in, week-out just yet.

But sometimes it is in situations like this, when needs must, that you find players step up to the plate.

Bradley Fewster

This one is a little bit more long-term.

Should Thomas be ruled out for a longer than Pools expect, then Fewster would come into the reckoning.

The youngster is back under the care of medical staff at parent club Middlesbrough at the moment.

But he is expected to return to action at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium within the next couple of weeks.

Having had a fair bit of success in League Two with York City last season, Fewster could bring goals from wide. He netted eight in just 18 starts last season.

This weekend will almost certainly come too soon for Fewster. But, looking ahead, he could be just the man to take on Pools’ scoring burden from the flank.