NEIL Austin looks set to give Hartlepool United a boost by being fit for Saturday’s League Two visit to Bristol Rovers.
The stand-in captain was helped off in stoppage time during Saturday’s 2-1 win over Accrington Stanley at Victoria Park – the first league victory of the season.
Boss Colin Cooper feared Austin’s hamstring problem could rule him out of the trip to the Memorial Ground.
But the 30-year-old has trained at the club’s Maiden Castle base and if he comes through today’s session with no ill-effects he will be on the bus tomorrow for the long journey to the south-west.
Austin looks set to lead out Pools on Saturday with regular skipper Antony Sweeney unlikely to start against the Gas.
Pools assistant boss Craig Hignett told SportMail: “It looks like Aussie is going to be all right, he’s recovered well.
“We’ll see what he’s like after training today and tomorrow but he seems to be OK.”
Austin had a fine game in the win over Accrington, proving solid at the back while he also got forward to support the offensive players.
He started the season at right-back and for a long period was the side’s top scorer after netting a late consolation goal at Nottingham Forest in the Capital One Cup.
But since the arrival of Michael Duckworth on a short-term contract, Austin has been switched to left-back to accommodate the former Bradford Park Avenue defender.
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And Hignett says he and Cooper have been impressed with the seasoned campaigner’s play, attitude and leadership.
“Since he switched to left-back he’s looked a lot more confident,” said Hignett.
“Aussie has been a good bonus for us.
“He’s looked very solid in defence and comfortable on the ball and he’s good on both his right and left feet.
“Aussie is a calming influence on a young defence and he’s a top professional.
“He’s a model pro for the young lads, how he looks after his body, how he conducts himself, everything.”
Austin has led Pools for the last six league and cup games following the injury to Sweeney early in the 1-0 home defeat to Southend United last month.
Sweeney returned top the squad last weekend but was forced to watch the first Sky Bet League win of the season from the subs bench.
That is probably the best spot he can hope for this Saturday in Bristol.
Pools had hoped to get him some valuable match fitness and practice last night at Mansfield Town where Hignett’s reserve team lost 3-1 to the Central League East leaders.
However the midfielder was ruled out with a bug, though Hignett was quick not to write off his chances for the match at the Memorial Ground.
“We’ll wait and see what he’s like today,” said Cooper’s right-hand man.