Billy Paynter looks set to hand Ronnie Moore a major Hartlepool United boost.
The Pools skipper is in contention to return to the Pools side for tomorrow’s mid-table battle with Cambridge United at Victoria Park (kick-off 3pm).
If Billy’s fit, he’s our captain, our leader, he’ll come backRONNIE MOORE
Paynter missed last week’s 1-0 defeat at Exeter City with a hamstring problem which has troubled him over recent weeks and Moore insists the 31-year-old must be fully fit to line-up against the U’s.
If he comes through training today and is fit, it could leave Moore a selection headache given Pools played well in attack.
But the manager knows Pools with Paynter is a far stronger proposition than without him.
“Whoever is not in it, whichever we go, 4-3-3 or 4-4-2, it will be tough on someone,” Moore told SportMail. “I need to pick a team which is going to get a result against Cambridge.
“Whoever misses out will be disappointed, but next week, we might change it again, it’s always developing.
“That’s why we have a squad of 20-odd players. We’ve got to choose the right side for that particuilar game.
“It’s not always about ‘we’ll keep that team’.
“That side at Exeter did play well, but if Billy’s fit, he’s our captain, our leader, he’ll come back.
“Whoever goes out, that’s life unfortunately, they’ll have to live with it.”
Rakish Bingham led the line last week, assisted by Jake Carroll to his left and Rhys Oates on his right.
Moore would probably favour Paynter being flanked by Oates and Bingham with Carroll likely to regain the left-back spot in place of Dan Jones.
“We missed Billy for his hold-up play,” explained Moore. “Bings was up there, but he’s still young-ish and still learning how to play up there on his own.
“He’s more your second striker who wants to play on the shoulder.
“If I have any criticism of Bings then it would be that part of the play, the ball came back a little bit too easy.
“Billy gives us that hold-up and it allows the midfielders to go beyond and support.
“If we did miss anything at Exeter, it was that and, of course, his goal threat.”
Paynter trained at Maiden Castle yesterday but Moore will want to see him come through a couple of sessions before being convinced he’s ready to start.
“We are just going to wait and see,” said Moore.
“We’ve given him that break and Billy is saying the right things and wants to play.
“But we can’t be carrying anybody. We need to make sure we have 11 lads who are fit and raring to go.
“We’ll probably leave that one to the very last minute.”
Paynter’s return would probably be the only change to the XI which performed well at St James Park.
Cambridge boss Richard Money has doubts over leading scorer Barry Corr (thigh), Elliot Omozusi and Jacob Blyth (both ankle).
But the U’s boss has Jordan Chiedozie back at the club after a loan spell at Braintree and the forward is likely to feature.
Pools (probable): Bartlett, Halliday, Harrison, Boyce, Carroll, Bates, Featherstone, Woods, Oates, Bingham, Paynter. Subs (from): Denton, Jones, Worley, Walker, Hawkins, Smith, Oyenuga, Fenwick