Notts County v Hartlepool United: Ex-Middlesbrough star Matthew Bates to return

Matthew Bates

Matthew Bates

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Ronnie Moore is keeping his fingers crossed Matthew Bates is fit to return to his Hartlepool United side tomorrow at Notts County.

Bates missed last Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat to Exeter City and was badly missed too – Pools conceding two soft goals to the Grecians.

If he’s fit he play. Him and Jacko have done really well when they’ve played together

RONNIE MOORE

The ex-Middlesbrough star is being troubled by a toe problem.

“Batesy should be all right,” Moore told SportMail. “We’ll leave that one until the last minute, but we’re hopeful.”

Bates was outstanding the previous Saturday at Cambridge and was just as good in the 1-0 win over Wycombe, his partnership with Adam Jackson proving very strong.

“If he’s fit, he plays,” confirmed Moore. “Him and Jacko have done really well when they’ve played together.

“No disrespect to Scotty Harrison, but Batesy and Jacko were the pairing who had been playing and doing well.

“When he’s been fit, Batesy has been as good as anyone in League Two.”

Moore sees the defence as key to Pools’ chances tomorrow.

Notts County score plenty of goals but they can be fragile at the back too – Moore will hope if his rearguard and Trevor Carson can keep it clean tomorrow then they can collect all three points at Meadow Lane.

Not that Moore is taking anything for granted against the Magpies, especially given their strikeforce of Izale McLeod and Jon Stead.

“They are Notts County, they are a big club, will have a big crowd behind them and have decent players,” he said.

“We have to handle their two strikers, they are experienced, they know how to play.

“Our back four will have to play well to get a result there.

“But the lads are more than capable of doing that, they coped with everything Cambridge threw at us.

“I’m sure they’ll be able to cope with Notts County too.

“It’s a tough trip, no doubt about that.

“Notts County is a great place – I love going there, the atmosphere’s brilliant, pitch is massive.

“They set up like us, 4-4-2-ish, it will be a wide open game with nice areas for the wide men.”

Moore said Pools have respect for Jamie Fullarton’s side but quipped that he’s not facing the same sort of task as when Gary Neville took Valencia to Barcelona in midweek

“It’s not like the team Gary Neville was looking at the other day,” said Moore. “We’re not facing Suarez are we?

“That’s no disrespect to Notts County – we have to go there with the mentality that we can win this game.

“On our day we can be as good as anyone.”

The return of Bates may be a no-brainer for Moore, but he faces some tough selection choices, especially up front and in midfield, both departments where he has a surplus of players.

Pools (possible): Carson, Richards, Bates, Jackson, Carroll, Hawkins, Woods, Gray, Thomas, Paynter, James. Subs (from): Bartlett, Harrison, Jones, Magnay, Featherstone, Walker, Oates, Fenwick, Bingham