HARTLEPOOL United’s sicklist does not look as bad as first feared – but Colin Cooper is taking no chances and has added two loan players to his squad.
The Pools boss has brought in two young Sunderland prospects, Scott Harrison and Connor Oliver, who have joined on loan for the rest of the season.
Neither player is likely to start against Cheltenham tomorrow though if they train well today at Maiden Castle there is every channce they will be named on the bench.
Cooper told SportMail last week that he would continue his policy of not signing players “for the sake of it” but vowed to “react” if he needed to.
He needed to after seeing Jack Compton (hamstring), Marlon Harewood (ankle), Darren Holden (back) and Antony Sweeney (thigh) come off injured in the damaging 4-2 defeat to Mansfield Town.
Skipper Sam Collins took a heavy whack to his face in the second half but like a good old soldier, battled on in pain.
Only Sweeney, whose already-frustrating season now looks over, is definitely ruled out.
Both Compton and Collins trained yesterday.
Compton believes he his hamstring twinge may have just been a bit of fatigue factor while Collins, after spending much of the season on the bench, will not relinquish his jersey.
With Simon Walton to return from his one-match ban and Jack Barmby’s loan stay from Manchester United extended unntil the end of the season,
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Cooper is unlikely to need to make the wholesale changes which he feared he’d have to.
But Harrison and Oliver are likely to earn themselves some game-time at some point in the coming weeks.
Cooper watched the pair, both North-East lads, come on as subs in the Sunderland U21 team’s 1-0 victory over Fulham.
Harrison, a centre-half, has played 15 times for the side coached by Kevin Ball, a former central defender himself and a good friend of Cooper.
The Middlesbrough-born originally played for Darlington before being taken top the Academy of Light by former Quakers boss Craig Liddle.
The 20-year-old has been out on in League Two this season, at Bury, but only made one appearance from the bench for the Shakers.
Oliver, from Walker in Newcastle, has no Football League experience.
The 20-year-old is primarily a right-back, but given Pools are not short in that department he will operate in his other role as a defensive midfielder.
Oliver only returned to action just before Christmas after spending almost a year on the sidelines through injury.
But the Geordie has looked good in the Premier Reserves League since returning and his appearance against Fulham was his seventh of the campaign.
Harrison will wear the number 24 shirt and Oliver 26.
Cooper admits the injuries were frustrating but says there was nothing they could do to legislate for what amounted to a lot of bad luck arriving on one night.
“We’ve had injuries this week and you have to be realistic about it,” he said.
“We’ve got a stand-out injury record, top-class.
“Buster [chief physio Ian Gallagher] works his socks off with the resources we have available.
“The lads do their best to do everything they possibly can to rest and recover and prepare.
“Tony pulled up on Tuesday night with a hamstring injury and he is as professional as they come.
“He’s tweaked his hamstring, it happens.
“Three of the others were contact injuries and you can do nothing about them.
“We’ll crack on and do what we can.
“Sometimes you are disappointed and frustrated, but you can’t stop lads from picking up injuries.
“For a team plying our trade where we are, our medical department work so hard and do a fantastic job.
“Buster is desperate to get them out of his treatment room and on the pitch for tomorrow.”
If Harewood does not make it, Cooper could move Barmby up alongside James and recall James Poole to the starting XI.
Despite Jordan Richards not having done anything wrong, he is likely to restore his first-choice right-back, Michael Duckworth, into the back four.
Pools (probable): Flinders, Duckworth, Burgess, Collins, Holden, Walton, Walker, Compton, Poole, James, Barmby. Subs (from): Raffery, Rowbotham, Richards, Harrison, Oliver, Hawkins, Franks, Harewood, Rodney