Experienced centre-back gives Hartlepool United boss a big boost

Hartlepool United defender Rob Jones. Picture by Frank Reid
Hartlepool United defender Rob Jones. Picture by Frank Reid

Rob Jones looks set to hand Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett an injury boost ahead of their trip to table-topping Plymouth Argyle.

But Saturday’s League Two match looks to have come around too soon for his fellow member of the Pools’ defensive union, Matthew Bates.

Veteran Jones returned to training this week and should he not suffer any reaction to the hip problem, which kept him out of last weekend’s 0-0 draw with Mansfield, Hignett says he will be available for the Home Park clash.

“He has been training,” said the gaffer of his 36-year-old centre-back.

“He trained Monday and Tuesday. Hopefully he is not too far away.

“We hope he will be in contention for the weekend.”

The news on Bates was not so positive from Hignett. He told the Mail that bone bruising is the issue with former England youth international.

And it is a case of taking it day by day with the 29-year-old. “He is still not quite there,” said Hignett. “Bone bruising is a bit of a funny thing. You think he is OK then he steps it up and he feels it.He is not too far away, though.

“There is no swelling – you can’t see anything around the foot, but when he starts running he can feel the pain in it.”

The form of Scott Harrison and Aristote Nsiala, who helped keep Pools’ first clean sheet of the season last Saturday, means Hignett is in no need to rush Bates back.

Although he does worry that without that duo his back four does lack leadership. “It is pointless us risking him,” he said. “We have got options at centre-half.

“When Nsiala plays properly, he is a real handful. He is a proper defender. He is a young lad who is learning all the time. And he will only get better and better.

“Scott has also managed to show that his form of last year is a distant memory.

“If Rob and Bates don’t play, we don’t have a natural talker or leader in there.

“When you look along the back four without those two there are no players who will do the talking.

“But we have worked a lot with them on the training field and they have taken it all in. On Saturday, we looked well organised at the back.”