Sickness bug hits Hartlepool Utd players ahead of Walsall clash

Ritchie Humphreys in action against Coventry City. Picture by FRANK REID

Ritchie Humphreys in action against Coventry City. Picture by FRANK REID

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JOHN Hughes is sweating over the fitness of several key players ahead of tomorrow’s visit of Walsall (kick-off 3pm).

A sickness bug has prevented some of his squad training this week with skipper Peter Hartley one of those affected.

James Poole twisted his knee during the 3-0 defeat at Oldham Athletic on Tuesday night and he was still on crutches yesterday.

Ritchie Humphreys missed that game with a calf strain and he is the one player Hughes is hoping will be fit to return.

“We missed Ritchie massively the other night,” said the Pools chief.

“But he’s 35 years old and needs that wee safety net in there.

“Simon Walton sits in and covers him and it allows Ritchie to go and play and he’s been excellent.

“Hopefully he’ll train and be okay for the weekend.

“The good news for Poolie is that there is no break but he’s still on crutches so it’s unlikely he’ll play this weekend.

“Two or three of them are also unwell and didn’t train yesterday so we left them in the house.”

Hughes has also revealed that Charlie Wyke – replaced by Steve Howard at Boundary Park – had been nursing a slight groin strain although he is available for tomorrow.

And the Scot must decide what to do with a forward line which has not scored in seven-and-a-half hours of football.

“We have to keep a three-man midfield to keep us in the game so that means the other three up front,” he said.

“Charlie could have played on Tuesday but he was just looking a bit tired and had felt his groin.

“We just thought having Stevie up there as a focal point might allow the

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likes of Poole and (Jon) Franks to get around him with a bit of energy, but it didn’t materialise.

“The goals thing is a real concern and we’ll have to come up with something.

“But first and foremost we have to keep a clean sheet and stay in the game, because the defending on Tuesday wasn’t good enough.”

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