Jack Baldwin hands Pools major fitness boost ahead of MK Dons

Jack Baldwin after being injured against Colchester United. Picture by FRANK REID
Jack Baldwin after being injured against Colchester United. Picture by FRANK REID

JACK Baldwin has recovered from what was at first feared a season-ending injury and will return to the squad for tomorrow’s visit of MK Dons (kick-off 3pm).

The 19-year-old suffered knee-ligament damage last month with manager John Hughes predicting a close-season comeback for the midfielder.

But Baldwin has surprised the club’s medical staff with his rapid rehabilitation and, after coming through 45 minutes of yesterday’s 4-0 reserve-team win over Rotherham United, he should return to the bench against The Dons.

“It’s a massive turnaround for Jack,” Hughes told SportMail.

“As a young guy it’s possibly his first injury in football.

“His powers of recovery have been brilliant, he probably doesn’t know any other.

“I think we’ve missed him and that’s been evident.

“If there are no effects then he’ll come into our thinking tomorrow.”

But Hughes does have injury concerns elsewhere and it will be a patched-up side he sends into battle at Victoria Park.

“We’re carrying a lot of knocks and a few of the lads haven’t been training,” he explained.

“One or two have knocks and there’s been a bit of a bug going around.

“We’ve not had the chance to get them all on the training pitch.

“Charlie Wyke is nursing a heel problem.

“Jon Franks has a back problem and Evan Horwood has an ankle injury.

“Stevie Howard has an issue with his knee and Sam Collins with his calf.

“So we’ll rest them up and hopefully they’ll be okay for tomorrow and Monday.”

Hughes has already promised to do away with caution and name four forwards in his line-up in a bid to find the net for what will be the first time in seven matches.

“If we have to open up with two up front and natural wingers then so be it,” he went on.

“But we have to go for bust.

“I will put out the best team possible and all of the attacking guys will come into my thinking.

“We might have to fly by the seat of our pants.”

Wyke is likely to replace Steve Howard in attack where he could be joined by either James Poole, free of a knee injury, or Luke James, scorer of a hat-trick in that second-string win.

Hughes continued: “I feel Charlie has really grown into a man in that lone striker role against big, strong centre-halves.

“I don’t think we’re great at creating chances for him either, anything he gets he has to conjure up for himself.

“I scratch my head to say ‘how can we not put in the sort of performance we did against Crewe?’.

“We scored three goals, we were at them and we were playing with a passion and a spirit.

“We need to get back to that and we need to be more adventurous and brave in possession.”

POOLS (probable): Flinders; Austin, Hartley, Collins, Horwood; Franks, Sweeney, Walton, Monkhouse; Wyke, Poole. Subs: Rafferty, Baldwin, Humphreys, Howard, Luscombe, James, Holden