Graeme Lee explains Tom Crawford absence and gives update on Huddersfield Town midfielder as Hartlepool United prepare for Oldham Athletic clash

Graeme Lee will have to manage midfielder’s Tom Crawford and Matty Daly carefully as Hartlepool United begin 2022 at home to Oldham Athletic.

Crawford has recently begun forcing his way into the Pools first team picture since Lee’s arrival after impressing in the Papa John’s Trophy success over Sheffield Wednesday and a notable cameo in the League Two win over Rochdale at the Suit Direct Stadium.

Meanwhile Daly, on-loan from Huddersfield Town, is enjoying a breakout year having established himself firmly in the first team picture with Pools this season contributing six goals in his 25 appearances.

But both Crawford and Daly have been two of Lee’s side to have struggled with the impacts of COVID-19 in recent weeks having tested positive for the virus in the run up to Pools’ scheduled trip to Colchester United earlier in December.

Tom Crawford missed out on Hartlepool United's Boxing Day trip to Mansfield Town. (Credit: Will Matthews | MI News)

That clash with the U’s was postponed due to a number of positive cases in the Pools squad before Lee’s side returned to action on Boxing Day in the 3-2 defeat at Mansfield Town.

But both Crawford and Daly struggled with lingering side-effects from the illness with 22-year-old Crawford missing out from Lee’s Boxing Day squad altogether while Terriers midfielder Daly was subbed off in the second half.

Both players have trained this week as Pools look to bounce back against Oldham on New Year’s Day as Lee told The Mail of the precautions he has had to take with both.

“Tom came back in, like a few of the lads, but the responses on his heart rate and things - even though he thought he was all right in training - it was spiking too high so the safety of Tom was taken into consideration.

Huddersfield Town loanee Matty Daly was one of four Hartlepool United players to have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks. (Credit: Will Matthews | MI News)

“It wasn’t worth it in the sense of pushing him through anything that would, or could, cause him any serious harm.

“We had four who had been off with their isolation time. We looked at their responses in training and it was about trying to manage which one played and which one didn’t.

“Matty said at half time he was struggling a little bit. We got a little bit more out of him and then we had to make the changes.”

With no further setbacks in training Crawford and Daly are both in contention to face a Latics side who arrive at the Suit Direct Stadium bottom of the League Two table.

But Pools boss Lee is taking nothing for granted having been frustrated in their most recent outing on home soil against struggling Scunthorpe United and knows his players will need to be focused if they are to return to winning ways.

“I’ve said before, there’s not one easy game in this league, or in any league. We’ve got to focus.

“We’ve done all our prep on Oldham and what they can offer but we’ve got to focus on us. We’ve got to be on our game.

“Every single player has got to be on their game. We can’t have anyone switching off. If we’re on it then we’ll give ourselves a great chance to win the game.”

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