JAMES Poole will tonight have the opportunity to send a message to boss Colin Cooper that he is ready for a Hartlepool United return.
TThe striker will start in a strong Pools reserve side who visit Mansfield Town tonight (kick-off 7pm).
Andy Monkhouse and Luke James have started the last two SkyBet League Two games as the frontline pairing and both have impressed.
But Cooper says no-one is guaranteed a start and Poole has the chance to deliver a reminder of his talents ahead of Saturday’s trip to Bristol Rovers.
Pools assistant boss Craig Hignett says the former Manchester City product will be an integral member of the squad and is looking forward to seeing him challenge for a place in the starting XI on Saturdays.
“Pooley has a big part to play for us,” Hignett told SportMail.
“He is everything me and Colin want in a footballer.
“He is clever, he can see a pass and he scores goals.
“At the moment we are trying to get him into the danger areas and know when to drop and when to run.
“Pooley is really good on the ball and we are going to need that at some stage of the season.”
The 23-year-old will start this evening at Field Mill where Hignett will field a side which is also likely to feature Sam Collins.
The experienced campaigner has been restricted to bench duty with Cooper plumping for the young defensive pairing of Jack Baldwin and Christian Burgess.
But, like Poole, Collins remains central to the club’s plans, and an appearance this evening will be vital to shake off any ring-rust.
“We’ve got quite a few lads who have not played a regular 90 minutes,” added Hignett.
“The way the reserve league is, matches are a bit sporadic – this is the first game for three weeks.
“This evening is a chance to get in a competitive game.”
Nialle Rodney, who made it off the bench for the close stages of the bottom-of-the-table clash, could also start tonight for Hignett’s team.
But there will be no place for skipper Antony Sweeney.
Like Poole, Sweeney spent Saturday’s vital 2-1 win over Accrington Stanley as an unused substitute.
The captain has been sidelined with a calf problem since being injured in the early stages of the opening League Two home match of the season against Southend United.
Sweeney, who took a full part in training with the first-team squad last week, was lined up to feature in this evening’s game but has been laid low by a bug.