Matthew Bates admits he will not rush Ryan Donaldson back to starting action too soon.
The former Newcastle United, Gateshead and Cambridge man got the final quarter of an hour of Pools loss to Guiseley on Monday, having spent six months on the sidelines with an ankle problem which required two operations to fix.
And Bates says if he’d had a bigger squad he would never have thrown the 26-year-old in so soon after a long-term absence.
But needs must at Pools with such a threadbare squad and Donaldson will continue to be eased into action, with a starting spot understood to still be some way off.
“We are easing him back,” said Bates.
“With a bigger squad he would not have been back yet.
“He did well and on one occasion could have had a goal.
“Ryan has had a few set-backs along the road, getting back into the side will be good for him.”
Since his summer arrival Pools have mainly used Donaldson as a right-winger.
But, with Bates switching to a more narrow 4-1-2-1-2 formation, Donaldson is likely to moved to suit the system.
“I actually had a conversation with him before the game about this very subject,” said Bates when asked about Donaldson’s best position.
“I asked him where he would want to play in the forward areas of this formation and his answer was ‘anywhere, apart from the holding role’.
“When he’s fully fit he can play where he can impact the game, up front and wide.
“Now it’s about getting him back. It’s a delicate situation, it’s about managing him and making sure he’s right game by game week by week.’”
Meanwhile, Liam Donnelly remains a doubt for Saturday’s Victoria Park clash with Solihull Moors.
Bates might again have to work without the Northern Ireland under-21 international skipper.
“Liam is getting there,” said the caretaker. “There’s still a bit of swelling in his ankle and calf and we hope it’s OK for training on Thursday.”