Liam Donnelly or Louis Laing? Hartlepool United boss Craig Harrison reveals his thoughts on who will replace injured Keith Watson

Louis Laing.
Louis Laing.
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Louis Laing and Liam Donnelly are set to do battle for a place at the heart of the Hartlepool United backline.

With Keith Watson ruled out of tomorrow’s Eastleigh clash, Craig Harrison must choose whether to give Northern Ireland youth international Donnelly or summer signing Laing the nod alongside Sunderland loan man Michael Ledger in the centre of defence.

And although he is undecided as yet, Harrison has revealed that he thinks Donnelly would still be a mainstay in the Pools backline, had he not been called up by his country recently.

When asked about his defensive conundrum, the manager said: “Laingy is fit and available and Liam Donnelly has been unlucky.

“Even though he would have been proud to represent his country his call up hasn’t helped him domestically.

“He was probably our best defender and then Ledger comes in and Watson and he can’t get straight back in.

“He must be more frustrated than anyone - it is nothing he has done. We have just been in good form, with the defence playing well since he has come back.”

While Harrison knows St Johnstone loanee Watson will be a massive miss given his recent form, the boss also says this is the perfect opportunity for one of his squad to step up to the plate.

He continued: “I want players to use these opportunities to prove people wrong.

“If I, as a player, heard people talking about how much the team would miss this player and that player and I was in their place, I’d want to show them just how much they’d miss me.

“Woodsy (Michael Woods) and Hawksy (Lewis Hawkins) were in the same position as the lads out the team a few weeks ago. Five or six weeks on they are in the team. It happens that quickly.

“99% of footballers get injured at some point in time.

“It’s sink or swim when you are thrown in - that’s football.

“It is frustrating for the players who are injured but we have a strong squad.”

The importance of a deep squad has never been far from Harrison’s thoughts, knowing the frequency of games in the fifth tier.

That’s why he is desperate to add another striker to his ranks in the coming weeks.

But he says that does not mean he is not happy with what he has got at Pools.

Quite the opposite.
He explained: “We are still looking but we do not want to undermine what we have here currently. The lads we have here have been excellent.

“We are working with two very young lads in Devante Rodney and Connor Simpson. Rhys Oates is a bit older and then we have Ryan Donaldson and Franksy, who I see as forward players.

“I would like another, but it is nothing the players here have done wrong. I just want more competition.”