Craig Harrison is facing the toughest spell of his Hartlepool United reign and he must do it without some of the club’s key players.
The Pools boss, who witnessed his team snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against Macclesfield on Saturday, has also seen the injury list grow at Victoria Park.
Harrison is without THREE first-choice picks, in each department of the team, plus two other players who would certainly be in the match-day 16.
Nicky Featherstone will be out for up to six weeks after scans revealed he fractured a fibula at Ebbsfleet the previous Saturday.
He joined Jonathan Franks (hamstring) and long-term absentee Keith Watson (knee) on the sidelines.
To be minus one of those figures is hard enough, but all three make the job even harder.
To add to the woes, Luke George, a candidate to replace Featherstone, damaged his hamstring in training last week and will be out for around four weeks.
“Feaths was a massive part of the successful run we’ve had,” said Harrison.
“He’s been instrumental in the way we’ve played, controlling things from midfield.
“He’s a very influential player and we’ve been unlucky that our injuries all seem to be to experienced players.
“Luke did his hamstring on Tuesday at training.
“We’ve had freak injuries to Keith and Ryan [Donaldson] who fell awkwardly,
“Franksy out at this moment in time with a hamstring – there are five very experienced players who would get in most teams in the league.
“I try not to moan about injuries, but I hear clubs complain about players being out, but every one of ours is an influential player.”
Franks could resume this Saturday at Dover Athletic, if he comes through training with no ill-effects.
He will certainly be required after Pools passed up opening after opening against the Silkmen who snatched a 2-1 victory at the death through Ryan Lloyd and Keith Lowe after Michael Woods gave the hosts a deserved lead.
To be fair, Pools did not unduly miss Featherstone against the Macc lads, given how well the midfield unit of Liam Donnelly, Conor Newton and Woods performed.
But Harrison says they missed his presence on the park.
“We played well without Feaths, but as a senior player we’ve probably missed his game-management,” he said.
“Would he have had an influence at the end? I’m certain he would have, the same with Keith Watson.
“But I can’t really deal in ifs, buts and maybes, they are injured and not available.”