Hartlepool United look set for a defensive boost with the news that Matthew Bates and Rob Jones could both return within the next seven days.
Having conceded nine goals in the last three games Pools are crying out for some experience at the back.
And Jones and Bates could be on the verge of answering manager Craig Hignett’s prayers.
It’s understood that this weekend will come around too soon for Bates, who has recovered fully from bone bruising in his foot, but Jones has a chance of being available for Sunday’s FA Cup first round clash with Stamford.
Hopes had been high that Jones would be fit for the trip to The Hive, where he made his Pools debut at the back end of last season.
But having managed to get through just 50 minutes of football the day previous for Hartlepool United Reserves against Newcastle United, Jones was not deemed fit enough to travel down to North London with the rest of the first-team squad.
Hignett explained: “Rob Jones did play for the reserves last Friday and we got 50 minutes. But he’s feeling tight hamstrings. We asked him about this game at Barnet but he felt he wasn’t ready.”
Given that the 36-year-old, who has had a hip problem, was so close to making his League Two return last week, he is expected to be in contention for a spot on the bench at least against Stamford, provided he gets through another week of training at the club’s Maiden Castle base this week.
Another player who is slowly stepping up his return on the training fields of Durham University this weeks is former England youth international Bates.
The 29-year-old has not kicked a ball since August but is closing in on a first-team call.
Manager Hignett thinks Stamford might be a bridge too far for the ex-Middlesbrough man.
But he feels the Checkatrade Trophy group stage game with Rochdale is in his player’s sights.
The gaffer said: “I hope Batesy will be OK for the Rochdale game.”
It is no secret that defensively Pools have not been up to scratch in recent weeks.
Only Morecambe – 29 – have conceded more goals than Pools’s 28 in the league so far this season.
The worst thing about it is that in an attacking sense, only the top four teams in the division have managed to score more.
This is something that frustrates the manager, who is trying to see the positives despite the disappointment of defeat against the Bees at the weekend.
Although, Pools issue with set-pieces must be addressed, according to Hignett.
“I will concentrate on the fact we come away, played really well, scored two away from home, conceded a lucky one and two set-pieces,” he said.
“I’ve got to look at set-pieces – 14 conceded from 29 now and it’s not acceptable.”