Hartlepool United-Doncaster: Team news, Donnelly back in contention, Thomas to train

Matthew Bates: Fans are so important
Matthew Bates: Fans are so important

Matthew Bates has Liam Donnelly back in contention and hopes to have Nathan Thomas fit for Saturday's crunch game with Doncaster Rovers.

Bates, the head of Hartlepool United's interim management team, says having the Northern Ireland U21 defender back gives him selection options at the back.

The 30-year-old recalled Jordan Richards from his loan spell at Alfreton last week with the Sunderland-born defender performing well at Cheltenham.

Donnelly, who has missed the last two matches after his red card at Leyton Orient, comes into the frame but Bates admits Kenton Richardson, who has been sidelined for three games with an ankle problem is unlikely to return.

“Liam is back from suspension," said Bates. "Kenton has been able to do a little bit of gym work, but he will probably just miss out.

"Apart from that it’s a full squad with a couple of options we did not have before.

"It's a tough choice [at full-back], we've not decided what we are going to do yet."

Thomas has been troubled with a knee niggle but Bates has his fingers crossed for the nine-goal attacker.

"He's been struggling with his knee a little bit," said the ex-Boro star. "But he'll train today and I think he'll be OK for Saturday."

Bates says he an his management colleagues will sit down tomorrow to formulate a team which must win to give Pools any hope of staying up.

He admits there may be a disagreement or two here and there but insists they are on the same wavelength.

“We are all singing from the same hymn sheet," he said. "We know what we want to do, no-one has any thoughts outside the box, we all think the same way.

"We'll come up with a team for the weekend."

Bates said he has been overwhelmed by the show of support from the fans who have been queuing up at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium today for tickets.

“The fans are brilliant," he said. "I said last weekend for them to stay back like they did was remarkable.

"I said after the Cheltenham game that you can't kid Hartlepool fans, you could see the effort the lads put in was appreciated by them.

“Come kick-off they will be behind us, an electric atmosphere, and it'll be the biggest crowd since I’ve came here.

"But then it's up to us to go out and keep that atmosphere going with a performance.

"It’s crucial we start well.

"If we can keep that level up from last Saturday at Cheltenham, the fans will be with us for 90 minutes and that's important."