HARTLEPOOL United will “assess” Michael Duckworth over the next 24 to 48 hours in the hope the defender is not facing another long spell on the sidelines.
The luckless 21-year-old was stretchered off less than 11 minutes into his Pools comeback at Northampton.
Duckworth seemed to jar his foot in the turf after only five minutes and, typically, got up and tried to run it off.
But the Yorkshireman, making his first appearance since the New Year’s day defeat to Bury, collapsed on the edge of his own area leading to frantic waves to the bench from concerned team-mates.
When he was carried off after lengthy attention with his left leg in a brace, the initial fear was he’d broken his leg.
But X-rays at Northampton General Hospital revealed no fractures and he returned to Sixfields on crutches and was able to return home, relieved but sore, on the team coach.
“Michael went over on the far side of the pitch and twisted,” explained Cooper.
“He said he heard a snap or pop but thankfully no serious bone damage has shown up.
“But with soft tissue damage we won’t know until later.
“He came back on the team coach with us which was positive.
“Thankfully, there’s been no break – we will assess him over the next couple of days.”
Duckworth was arguably the player of the first half of the season or certainly on an equal standing with Luke James and Jack Baldwin.
Surgery on a double hernia interrupted his brilliant run of form but he returned to the squad for the matches against Newport County and Southend United.
Jordan Richards was the unlucky player to make way despite a few good displays.
But Cooper sees Duckworth as his best player at right-back and his decision to restore him to the starting XI looked a logical one.
“It was a tough on Jordan, bringing Michael back into the team,” he said.
“I just felt it was the right time to bring him back into the team.
“Michael is a tough so-and-so and to see him being stretchered off was very upsetting.
“We were all devastated for him – he’s been out for a few weeks and then six minutes in and it’s game over.
“Thankfully he is all right.”