HOW’ ABOUT THAT – Hartlepool Utd’s Howard to return for Leyton Orient game

Steve Howard protests a decision during the game against Preston North End. Picture by FRANK REID
Steve Howard protests a decision during the game against Preston North End. Picture by FRANK REID

JOHN Hughes is set to use Steve Howard as his secret weapon from the substitutes bench for this weekend’s visit of Leyton Orient.

The 36-year-old has been sidelined with a hamstring strain since the middle of last month and there were fears he could be out until early March.

However, Howard is now back in full training and will return to the squad for Saturday’s League One clash with The O’s.

There had even been a slight chance that the striker could have been involved on Tuesday night against Portsmouth.

And Hughes admits he would have used his target-man during the closing stages of the goalless draw.

“Big Stevie might have done us a treat during the last 15 minutes the other night,” Hughes told SportMail today.

“We were getting a lot of crosses in there and they were just heading it away time after time.

“Stevie might just have caused them a few problems.”

And, of his chances for the weekend, Hughes went on: “He’s back training but it was probably a little bit unfair to ask him to go straight in on Tuesday.

“He’ll train for the rest of the week and hopefully he’ll play a part on Saturday.

“Stevie has a big part to play and we’re relieved he’s back a little sooner than expected.”

While Howard will start from the bench, the likes of Andy Monkhouse could be pushing for a recall with Hughes admitting he is considering one or two changes.

“We might have to look to freshen it up,” he said.

“Maybe there was a bit of fatigue the other night.

“There are perhaps one or two areas I could change, but a lot of them are on good form.

“There’s a spirit amongst them so you don’t want to make too many changes to upset that.

“I’ve seen that they’re up for the fight and want to take responsibility.”