Hartlepool United need Matthew Bates.
That was not just the message from Craig Hignett who hopes to have the experienced defender back for Saturday’s journey to Barnet.
He’s a really experienced footballer, a big player for us. He was a big loss for us, you could see thatCraig Hignett
The Pools boss said Tuesday night’s performance at Bristol Rovers spoke volumes about the the influence Bates has on the team.
Pools looked lost without him, lost being the operative word as they slumped to a 4-1 defeat, a result which kept them just two points above the drop zone.
While Bates is not entirely infallible - his late mistake at Luton led to Craig Mackail-Smith’s winner - his defensive and leadership qualities are vital.
Pools were sunk by a series of individual mistakes against Rovers, with Matty Taylor making hay with a hat-trick.
“Batesy is the one who organises, talks, gets players in the right positions,” he said.
“He’s a really experienced footballer, a big player for us.
“He was a big loss for us, you could see that.”
As SportMail revealed yesterday, Hignett hopes the 29-year-old will be fit for the visit to Barnet, where Pools are in desperate need of a result.
Should York City win over in East London at Dagenham & Redbridge, Pools could be in League Two’s drop zone come 5pm on Saturday.
“We think Batesy will be OK to train today and tomorrow,” he said.
“If it locks up like it did on Tuesday night there is not a lot you can do, it takes a day to loosen up. We’re hoping he’ll be all right.”
Bates was forced to pull out just minutes before kick-off against the Gas.
Scott Harrison took his place and struggled in the first half at the Memorial Stadium, though, he was not alone in that regard.
To his credit, some of his defensive work in the second period was very good.
While coming in late in such a key area as central defence must be hard for a player, Hignett said Harrison had been impressing in training and should have been ready.
“Scott has been training well and if he gets a late call, he should be ready to play,” said Hignett.
“It shouldn’t be a problem.
“It was a late one but it was a chance for him to get in the team and stay in it.”