HARTLEPOOL United look set to see out their League One campaign with a depleted first-team squad.
Pools will have just four matches left to play following today’s trip to Stevenage.
But manager John Hughes could be forced to field several teenagers given the mounting injury problems at Victoria Park.
Having allowed Steve Howard to join Sheffield Wednesday on Thursday in a loan deal until the end of the season, Hughes was frustrated that no replacement striker was brought in.
His mood was not helped when, on the same day, forward James Poole pulled out of training having only just returned from a knee injury.
But Hughes was dealt a triple blow at the weekend with Ritchie Humphreys, Evan Horwood and Antony Sweeney all picking up injuries before or during the 2-0 defeat at home to MK Dons.
Humphreys suffered a reoccurrence of a calf problem in the warm-up while Horwood and Sweeney both succumbed to hamstring strains before the second half.
That pair are likely to miss the bulk of the remaining matches.
In the case of Horwood, who is out of contract in the summer, his future at the Vic remains uncertain with several clubs monitoring Pools’ top assist maker.
Meanwhile, Simon Walton will be available for today’s game despite having been sent off on Friday.
A straight red card for violent conduct automatically invokes a three-game ban.
But, with Pools having lodged an appeal, Walton is free to play until the Football Association return their verdict.
Should the appeal prove frivolous and the ban increased to four matches, then Walton’s season would be over.
However, the club believe they have a good case given that TV replays suggest Walton’s alleged stamp on Patrick Bamford was accidental.
His absence could have thrown up another first-team chance for Nathan Luscombe.
However, the midfielder took a heavy knock on his lower leg during last week’s reserve-team win over Rotherham United and he, too, could be set for a spell on the sidelines.
Hughes explained: “Nathan is a rascal of a boy.
“He got a knock in the reserve game but played on.
“If he’d come off he might have had a chance for Saturday.
“So he’s been sent for an x-ray.
“It’s one of a few problems we’re nursing right now.
“Sweens and Evan have hamstring problems, Poolie had to pull out training last week and Ritchie felt his calf again.
“On top of that we’ve got a few boys getting by carrying knocks.
“But we’ve got what we’ve got and just need to get on with it.”
POOLS (probable to face Stevenage): Flinders; Austin, Hartley, Collins, Holden; Franks, Walton, Baldwin, Monkhouse; James, Wyke. Subs: McHugh, Rowbotham, Rutherford, Hawkins, Boagey, Walker, Buddle