MICHAEL Duckworth’s timely return from injury to the first team has been welcomed by Hartlepool United boss Colin Cooper.
The 21-year-old right back had been out injured since suffering soft tissue damage in the 2-0 defeat at Northampton a month ago but returned to the team for Tuesday’s 4-2 defeat to Mansfield Town.
Cooper has described it as a “big boost” especially given injuries to Marlon Harewood (ankle), Antony Sweeney (hamstring), Darren Holden (back spasm) and Jack Compton (hamstring) against The Stags.
The quartet are still being assessed but the 47-year-old was already without Andy Monkhouse (hamstring strain) for at least four weeks and Neil Austin, out for the season with a toe injury.
It has left Cooper potentially desperately short and he has confirmed he is looking to bring in a couple of loan signings before tonight’s 5pm deadline.
One centre-back believed to be on Cooper’s radar is Middlesbrough-born Scott Harrison, who joined Sunderland in October 2012 after leaving Darlington amidst the Quakers financial troubles.
Harrison came through the youth system at Darlo and made 10 senior appearances during the 2011-12 season.
The 20-year-old then made 15 appearances for the development squad in 2012-13 and joined League Two side Bury on loan last
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November before returning to Wearside.
In the meantime, the return of Duckworth, who signed on a free from Bradford Park Avenue in the summer, has been welcomed.
The German-born defender was back among the substitutes in the 1-0 defeat to Oxford United before starting for the first time against the Stags.
The former York City trainee, who had also missed a month of football with a double hernia, made his 29th appearance of the season on Tuesday night.
Cooper said he will need him between now and the start of May.
“It is a big boost having Michael back in the side,” said Cooper.
“Michael was very keen to be involved at Oxford and with Andy Monkhouse getting injured before that game, to get him back amongst it was great.
“Michael has been terrific this season but Jordan Richards has been excellent in the time he has been in the team.
“But we are going to need to get some results over the coming weeks and having him back will help.”
Pools are 11th in League Two, nine points off the top seven with just seven matches remaining.
Richards kept his place at full-back against Mansfield, which meant Duckworth was given a new role.
With Brad Walker, 17, in for the suspended Simon Walton in the holding midfield berth, Duckworth was given free reign down the right-hand flank.
While it was a case of easing his way back into the side, he did look bright in spells and won the 44th minute penalty which Harewood was unable to convert.
“It was a new role for Michael,” said Cooper.
“On Saturday, Mansfield started with the same system and I just felt that James Jennings is very good as a wing-back and because we had lost Simon to suspension I decided to play Brad as a central midfield player.
“Other than the first 10 minutes, when Brad was finding his feet, I thought he was outstanding.
“Some of his passing and his play belies a lad of his age.
“But I knew at some point, if we got our noses in front, they would throw on Sam Clucas and Lindon Meikle and I thought Michael would be the ideal person to try and snuff that out.
“The harsh thing was we got ourselves 2-1 up and then had to make the substitutions.”