Liam Noble discusses his injury return, penalty misses & the battle to get back in the Hartlepool United team

Liam Noble celebrates opening his account for Pools at Maidstone on the first day of the season.
Liam Noble celebrates opening his account for Pools at Maidstone on the first day of the season.

Top-scorer Liam Noble accepts he's got a battle on his hands to re-establish himself in the Hartlepool United first-team.

The 12-goal midfielder made his return to action off the Pools bench against Leyton Orient at the weekend, missing a second-half penalty just minutes after coming into action against the National League leaders.

For that reason it was a bitter-sweet comeback for Noble, who had been missing since the home defeat to Maidstone United on January 6.

And while most top-scorers would walk straight back into their respective starting XIs, Noble knows he's going to have to fight tooth and nail to get back in Pools' side, especially due to the form of Josh Hawkes.

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"It is good to have competition all over the pitch," he said.

"We have it in centre mid as well with Hawksy, Luke (Molyneux) coming from Gateshead. They have been brilliant since the new gaffer has come in.

"It is a good thing. It keeps you on your toes. You want to be fighting in training to get a starting place.

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"If you know you are playing every week then you know the squad is not good enough.

"That's not the case here so I know I will have to be at my very best to get back into the team."

While Noble has been in the Pools treatment room there's been an influx of new talent into the side, with four signings adding some extra quality to their ranks.

The former Carlisle United and Sunderland man has been impressed with what he has seen, particularly from striker Nicke Kabamba.

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"The big man has been brilliant," he said.

"He works his socks off and deserves the goals he's been getting. Little Lukey (Luke James) is the same.

"Danny (Amos) has been brilliant, he has shown his quality. Him and Kitch are fighting it out.

"And Luke (Molyneux) has added something further forward.

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"We have quality in the dressing room."

While many have doubted said quality, it's never been in doubt for Noble - and that's even without further additions between now and the end of the season.

"We have got the quality in that changing room, without adding anyone else, to keep picking up points and climbing up the table," he said.

"We have had a lot of changes here.

"It is frustrating that we can play like we did against the league leaders but we have not been able to do that against other teams.

"You ask yourself why? I think the manager will want us to reproduce that now every week."

Reflecting back on his return, and the penalty miss, Noble has accepted he needs to handover penalty duties to another player.

From his 11 spot-kicks, Noble has scored eight and missed three.

"It is down to one of the other lads now," he said.

"I will pass that over to someone else now. I have missed a few.

"Hawksy (Josh Hawkes) wants them I think, as do the other lads.

"If I put that pen away we would have won it - that's the disappointment.

"The lads were different class from the first minute."