CHRISTIAN Burgess faces a race against time to be fit for Hartlepool United’s showdown with Chesterfield.
The gifted young centre-half hobbled out of Fratton Park on Saturday night after injuring his ankle late in the defeat by Portsmouth.
Pools will “continue to assess” the on-loan Middlesbrough defender.
But if Burgess is ruled out, boss Colin Cooper told SportMail he has no qualms about selecting another on-loan young prospect in his place – Scott Harrison .
The Sunderland centre-half played almost 20 minutes after coming on for Burgess against Pompey.
Harrison looked assured at the heart of the defence and Cooper will be happy to put his faith in the 20-year-old should Burgess not recover for the visit of the promotion-chasers.
“I’ve seen Scott play a few times and he’s not dissimilar to Christian,” said the manager, a former centre-half himself.
“When I’ve watched him at Under 21 level for Sunderland, he looks strong and confident.
“Playing in the Football League is a step up from development football, but he’s had a bit of a taste of it already at Bury.
“He’s settled in here well and he did all right on Saturday when he came on at Portsmouth.
“We will continue to assess Christian, but I wouldn’t have a problem in playing Scott.
“It would be a good test for him
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against one of the promotion chasers who are not short of goals.”
Harrison and his fellow defensive Sunderland colleague, Connor Oliver, were signed from the Black Cats as cover in defence and midfield should Pools lose Burgess, Sam Collins or Simon Walton to injury or suspension.
Harrison, from Middlesbrough, has made played 16 times for Sunderland in the Barclays Premier Reserve League, double the appearances of Oliver, though the Geordie missed a fair chunk of the season with injury.
Cooper has seen enough in the pair to have faith in playing them in League Two.
“I’ve seen them both play in the Sunderland U21 side and we had an 11-a-s-de game last week they played in,” he said.
“I’ve said from day one that I wouldn’t have a problem in putting either of them in the team.
“Both can handle a football and both a physically strong and technically good.”
Cooper will give Burgess time – and the same applies to recovering forward players Marlon Harewood and Andy Monkhouse.
Harewood (ankle) and Monkhouse (hamstring) have done some running this week in training at Maiden Castle but have not joined in with the squad.
“They have done some bits,” said Cooper. “They are both trying hard.
“We’ll give them every opportunity, but we’ll have to wait and see.”