Hartlepool United v Cambridge: Nicky Featherstone happy to give Billy Paynter captain’s armband

Nicky Featherstone is brought down by Matt Oakley (left). Picture by FRANK REID

Nicky Featherstone is brought down by Matt Oakley (left). Picture by FRANK REID

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Nicky Featherstone enjoyed his first taste of the Hartlepool United captaincy.

Perhaps until the second minute of stoppage time when Pools suffered a cruel 1-0 defeat at Exeter.

It’s never good to lose but to be beaten so late was a real kick where it hurts.

Nicky Featherstone

But the stand-in skipper says he’s happy to throw the armband back to Billy Paynter tomorrow for the League Two mid-table battle with Cambridge United.

Paynter is set to resume tomorrow after being ruled out of the trip to St James Park with a hamstring strain.

Featherstone hands over the side in decent nick, even if the table might not show in black and white.

Pools played some good football against the high-flying Grecians and the midfielder believes they are close now to turning the corner.

“It was a really positive performance,” Featherstone told SportMail. “ We created quite a few chances and we managed to nullify them.

“We’d done a lot of work on the back four, getting them to squeeze up, and we gave Exeter very little.

“I think we are getting there. We have been in [contention in] all four games we’ve lost.

“That’s what make it so disappointing that we’ve not come away with anything.

“If we were losing 2-0 or 3-0 and our performances were poor and we were not creating chances then you would be worried.

“But we’ve been in with a chance of getting something from every game and I think we showed by the way we played at Exeter that we are there or thereabouts.

“All it could take is one result to turn it around.”

The 26-year-old will hope that comes tomorrow as 14th hosts 12th at Victoria Park.

And he has no complaints that his time as skipper will be up.

“Billy is the club captain and, if he’s fit, I fully expect him to be skipper tomorrow,” he said. “I didn’t know I was going to be captain at Exeter until after the team meeting at the hotel.

“The gaffer asked would I lead the team out – it came out of the blue. It’s something I’ve never really done before, but I was happy to do it.

“The lads were great and if the gaffer picks me again, I’d do it 100 per cent, but I do expect to see Billy as captain.

“I enjoyed it and I thought we deserved a point, if not more.

“It’s never good to lose but to be beaten so late was a real kick where it hurts.

“It was especially disappointing to concede given the chances we’d created ourselves but couldn’t put away.”

On the subject of chances,the Yorkshireman is getting ever closer to that maiden Pools goal.

To say Featherstone is not exactly prolific would be an understatement.

He has just one career Football League goal to his name – during a spell at Hereford – but last Saturday he saw the target on two occasions.

Featherstone was denied by a tremendous Jordan Tillson tackle in the first half after being played in by midfield partner Michael Woods.

The same man set him up on 68 minutes only to be tripped by opposite number Matt Oakley for a penalty which, sadly, Rakish Bingham could not convert.

“I’d like to think a goal will come sooner rather than later,” he said.

“I’ve always tended to play the midfield holding role, so I’ve never really been in the situations to score.

“But both me and Woodsy are getting forward and we are creating chances.

“He slipped me in in the first half and, before I could shoot, the lad has made a good tackle, to be fair.

“I fancied a goal when Woody’s played me in again during the second half until I got fouled!

“The formation we have been playing has meant I can get a bit further forward and hopefully I can get to chip in with a goal or two.

“But, at the moment, I just want us to get back to getting positive results.”