ANTONY Sweeney will continue his bid for a first team return when he plays for Hartlepool United Reserves in tonight’s Durham Challenge Cup tie at Brandon.
Sweeney will be among a number of League Two squad members in the side at the Welfare Ground (kick-off 7.30pm).
Keeper Andy Rafferty, bright young defenders Jordan Richards and Darren Holden and striker Nialle Rodney will also be in the Pools side as they look to avoid a banana skin at the Ebac Northern League side.
Sweeney is currently in the middle of what must be one of the most frustrating comebacks in football.
The Pools skipper injured his calf in the early minutes of the first home game of the season, a 1-0 defeat to Southend.
The 30-year-old has been fit to play for a number of weeks, only to find his way back into the starting XI blocked by the outstanding form of his team-mates.
Sweeney has played only a dozen and a bit minutes in the last eight matches but remains the consumate professional.
Sam Collins, who has been sat alongside Sweeney on the subs bench for the majority of those league and cup matches, says his team-mate is up for tonight’s tie.
“Sweens is quite keen to play and get some game-time under his belt,” said Collins, who takes charge of this evening’s match against the Second Division side.
“He was injured for a while and has not made many games so this is an important match for him.
“The same goes for the other lads who have been on the bench for the first team.
“With last week’s reserve game at Barnsley getting called off, it’s been a couple of weeks since we played.
“It’s disappointing not just for the young pros, who have been playing well, but the lads who have been on the bench for the first team.
“They need game-time and reserve matches are important for that.
“That’s why we’ve been trying to range more games, we need as many as possible.”
A run in the Durham Challenge Cup would certainly up the fixture count.
They will tonight come up against a Brandon side with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Seventh from bottom in the Northern League’s lower tier, Brandon are no mugs in front of goal, with their tally of 30 an impressive figure.
But only two clubs have conceded more and keeping the ball out of their net seems to be a problem, a problem Collins would like to add to this evening.
There will be no complacency from Pools as Collins added: “One of the lads who works at Durham, where we train plays for Brandon, so he’s been dishing out a bit of stick.
“Tonight’s going to be similar to a pre-season game when you come against sides like Whitby and Billingham Town.
“They will be up for it and it’s a good test for us – we have got to play well to win.”