Toto Nsiala can play in Notts County v Hartlepool United Checkatrade Trophy tie

Toto Nsiala
Toto Nsiala

Toto Nsiala can play in Hartlepool United’s opening match in the Checkatrade Trophy – despite his red card in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Newport County.

That is just as well given that Craig Hignett’s most experienced central defenders, Matthew Bates (ankle) and Rob Jones (back) both look like missing Wednesday’s EFL group match at Notts County.

The fans could see the effort the lads put in and they were with us

CRAIG HIGNETT

Nsiala’s early bath looked like costing the summer signing from Grimsby his place for the trip to Meadow Lane.

But an unexpected loophole means his ban will not kick in until Saturday when Pools visit Stevenage, giving boss Craig Hignett the chance of getting Bates or Jones – or both – fit for the League Two fixture.

Scott Harrison and debutant Liam Donnelly finished Saturday’s match as the central defensive pairing after coming on as second-half subs.

But Donnelly is away this week on Northern Ireland U21 duty, though Harrison could well start on both Wednesday and Saturday after a fine performance.

“Rob Jones won’t be fit, he needs a few more days with his back,” said Hignett.

“Batesy turned an ankle and I would have rested him anyway, there is no point risking him.”

Hignett had no complaints about the decision to send off Nsiala.

Pools had just gone 1-0 up through Nicky Featherstone only for Nsiala to handle under pressure from Jon Parkin just outside the home area.

It denied the giant Newport forward a goal-scoring opportunity and the defender saw red from ref Andy Haines.

“No doubt about it, it was a sending-off,” admitted Hignett who saw Sean Rigg equalise from the resulting free-kick.

“But then for 87 minutes we play with 10 men and the lads put an unbelievable shift in.”

Pools fell behind to a Parkin stunner but with the home fans roaring on the side, Padraig Amond’s 38th-minute header squared up the score at 2-2.

“If you put effort in like that the crowd will get behind you,” said Hignett, who toyed with the idea of bringing on Harrison straight away but, in the end, waited until just before the hour mark.

“The fans could see the effort the lads put in and they were with us.

“The lads felt comfortable and we spoke at half-time about keeping shape and discipline and we were dangerous – our gameplan was working a treat.

“Trevor [Carson] hasn’t really been tested that much and we were defensively excellent.

“After Toto was sent off, we thought about putting Scotty on straight away, but Nicky can use the ball there and come out of defence with it.

“He was fine at the back.

“I wanted to try and keep all my forwards on, but if they started to lump it long against our centre-halves I would have put Scott on.

“I thought they would do that straight away, but they didn’t.

“In the end I didn’t need to use him until later on because we coped with what they threw at us.

“Newport wanted to play football and pass it and it was a good football game.”