JOHN Hughes was “delighted” to hear Simon Walton applauded from the field during the week – and the midfielder could now be handed a new role at Portsmouth tomorrow (kick off 3pm).
The Pools boss is still working to bring in a new face ahead of the weekend, with Steve Howard (hamstring), Jordan Richards (knee) and Tony Sweeney (knee) all missing from the squad which journeys to the South Coast.
And Walton could now be used in a more advanced midfield position given the absentees.
The 25-year-old was booed from the park during the New Year’s Day defeat to Preston North End, but he won cheers following an impressive 60 minutes against Bournemouth on Tuesday.
And Hughes told SportMail: “Simon was applauded off the other night and I was delighted about that.
“He is getting fitter with games and he is training hard.
“He’s still getting over that hamstring problem and I took that into account on a heavy pitch.
“I’m looking at the bigger picture because we need him if Sweens is going to be out.
“He needs 90 minutes to build up fitness, but if the hamstring goes after an hour because I’ve played him too long, it’s not good management.”
He went on: “Simon can get on the ball and run the show playing the quarterback role he is at the moment.
“But then can he move up and go toe to toe with a guy and go box to box?
“He might have to do it this weekend if we change shape.”
And Hughes has hinted that there will be a change in formation at Fratton Park.
Charlie Wyke is set to be pushed forward as replacement for Howard.
That could see Walton deployed in a central role in front of midfield pair Ritchie Humphreys and Jack Baldwin.
Andy Monkhouse and Nathan Luscombe are also vying for a starting place, with Jonathan Franks completing the midfield.
And Hughes said: “We might have to change shape but it will be positive and will take into account what they have got.
“One or two might come back in – Monks, Nathan, there you go, there’s a chance.
“If you can show me you are hungry then the team benefits from it. They have to come in and put a performance in.”
POOLS (probable): Flinders; Austin, Hartley, Collins, Horwood; Franks, Baldwin, Humphreys, Monkhouse; Walton; Wyke. Subs: McHugh, Holden, Luscombe, Poole, James, Rutherford, Rowbotham.
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