Oxford United v Hartlepool United: Craig Hignett to ponder changes

Scott Fenwick
Scott Fenwick
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Craig Hignett will again be without Billy Paynter for tomorrow’s League Two match at promotion favourites Oxford United.

The Pools skipper is making good progress from a hamstring strain, but tomorrow’s trip to the Kassam Stadium will probably come too soon for the 15-goal striker.

My message from the start has been ‘train well and you’ll get a go at some stage before the end of the season

CRAIG HIGNETT

Paynter could return at home to Portsmouth a week tomorrow.

Hignett will ring the changes tomorrow, having made five alterations to his starting XI against Accrington in midweek.

Carl Magnay, Nicky Featherstone, Lewis Hawkins, Michael Duckworth and Luke James were all left out against Stanley.

Magnay, Featherstone and James are almost certain to start tomorrow.

Skipper Magnay will resume at right-back, Featherstone at the centre of midfield, and James in attack.

Hignett could well give Josh Laurent another start, having shown some encouragement in midfield, while Scott Fenwick is a contender for the main striking role, having returned from his loan spell at Tranmere Rovers.

The manager said he feels comfortable about his decision to bring in so many players on Tuesday night.

“It wasn’t the result against Accrington that was disappointing, it was the performance,” said Hignett.

“We penned them back in the second half for long spells but we couldn’t find a goal.

“But it’s a learning curve for everyone.

“I made a lot of changes – I did it on purpose, I wanted to see players in proper games, I want to know who can and who can’t [play].

“Will there be changes tomorrow? We’ll see.

“The players I’ve chosen have all deserved a chance – my message from the start has been ‘train well and you’ll get a go at some stage before the end of the season’.

“When that chance comes it’s up to them to make sure they are ready.”

One player who will NOT feature at Oxford – or the fixtures against Portsmouth (H) and Plymouth (A) is Scott Harrison.

Hignett admitted the central defender would probably have been given a run-out before the end of the campaign, only to be sidelined with a foot problem.

“I feel a bit for Scotty,” he said.

“He’s been patient and on the fringe and it was probably the time when he could come in and have a chance to impress.

“The injury now means he won’t and I am gutted for him.”

“Billy is still being looked at and assessed to see where he’s at.

“Scott is back, his loan has been cut short so he’s another body to have back around the place too.”

And Hignett emphasised that those who get a start must look to take their opportunities.

“All these lads who haven’t figured are fighting for their futures,” he said. “It’s up to them to make me see they are worth a spot next year.”

Pools (possible): Carson, Magnay, Bates, Jackson, Carroll, Featherstone, Laurent, Woods, James, Fenwick, Thomas.

Subs (from): Bartlett, Duckworth, Richards, R Jones, Walker, Hawkins, Gray, Bingham, Oates.