Nathan Thomas is “champing at the bit” to return to the Hartlepool United side.
That was the message from boss Craig Hignett as Pools prepare for tomorrow’s League Two clash with York City (kick-off 3pm).
Everything I like in a footballer, Nathan’s gotCRAIG HIGNETT
Pools are looking to bounce back from Tuesday night’s 1-0 loss at Notts County.
It was only the second defeat in nine matches for one of the division’s form teams. Given Thomas was absent from both, the ‘Nathan Factor’ clearly is key to Pools.
Hignett wants to see other players step up to the plate when the 21-year-old is out of the side but admits Pools are currently not the same without him.
“You will miss Nathan, the form he is in,” Hignett explained. “He’s playing with so much confidence and scoring goals that he would be a miss to any team.
“But we have players who can keep him out of the team and make sure we don’t miss him, but they have to do it and take the chance when it comes.
“I keep saying to those lads ‘be ready when you get a chance’ – it’s up to them to capitalise.”
“But Nathan’s different, isn’t he?
“He goes past players, makes things happen and is exciting to watch.
“Everything I like in a footballer, Nathan’s got.
“I think I said after Morecambe that there are bits missing from his game, but I think we will improve him.
“Next season I think he will be a better player.
“He’s had some time off this week, but he’s back in training and will be champing at the bit to start.”
Thomas has been unplayable – as was highlighted in the 5-2 bonanza at Morecambe last Saturday.
The former Sunderland youth product had an assist in the opener by Michael Woods and then scored the next two goals.
He was within a gnat’s whisker of a first career hat-trick and his presence tomorrow will be vital for Pools.
Thomas will start tomorrow – the decision for Hignett to make is for who?
Last week at the Globe Arena, Rhys Oates was the man to make way for his return, but given Jake Gray is looking a little ‘leggy’, the Crystal Palace loan man could be given a breather.
There could be two other changes.
Jake Carroll and Matthew Bates, who also missed Tuesday night’s match at Notts County, could resume.
Carroll took a bang to the head late on at the Globe Arena, while Bates has missed the last two awaydays with thigh trouble but both should be available this weekend.
Michael Duckworth deputised well for Carroll against the Magpies and Hignett could well give the comeback man another 90 minutes.
Bates may come in for Rob Jones.
“Jake [Carroll] missed Tuesday as a precaution,” said Hignett.
“Batesy will not be far away and we’ll see how Rob is – he’s played twice in four days and at 58, that’s a fair shift!
Pools (probable): Carson, Magnay, Bates, Jackson, Carroll, Featherstone, Woods, Hawkins, Oates, James, Thomas
Subs (from): Bartlett, Duckworth, D Jones, Richards, R Jones, Harrison, Laurent, Walker, Gray, Smith, Bingham