Graeme Lee suggests Neill Byrne's suspension brings opportunity in the Hartlepool United squad

Neill Byrne’s suspension provides a good opportunity for those challenging for places in the Hartlepool United squad.

Byrne picked up his 10th caution of the season in the win over Colchester United which means he will miss Pools’ trips to Walsall and Harrogate Town, much to the frustration of manager Graeme Lee.

Byrne has been a regular for Lee since his arrival as manager featuring in all but one of the games he has been in the dugout for, with his only absence coming in the quarter-final of the EFL Trophy against Charlton Athletic.

In that time, Byrne has also been entrusted with the captaincy whenever Nicky Featherstone, and Gary Liddle, have been missing as the Irishman continues to enjoy a successful first season at the Suit Direct Stadium since his arrival from Halifax.

Neill Byrne will miss Hartlepool United's next two matches after picking up his 10th yellow card of the season against Colchester United (Credit: Michael Driver | MI News)

And his loss will be a big blow for Pools this weekend as they look to extend their unbeaten run in the league to nine games against Walsall.

“As soon as it happened you knew what the outcome was and he’s going to miss the two games so it’s a big blow,” said Lee.

“Him and Timi have built a great partnership over the last few weeks and since I came in he’s played near enough every game.

“But there’s lads there desperate to get the opportunity to come back into the team. So it’s a great opportunity to utilise the squad again.

Gary Liddle is expected to return to the Hartlepool United side against his former side Walsall. (Credit: Federico Maranesi | MI News)

“You don’t want to lose any of your players while you’re on a run and it’s disappointing for Neill, but there's an opportunity for others to come in.”

Byrne’s absence is likely to mean the return of Liddle, who has not started since leading Pools out in their FA Cup fourth round defeat at Crystal Palace owing to Lee’s changing of formation, against his former side.

But with Rotherham United loanee Jake Hull also pressing for an opportunity, Lee’s decision might not be as straight forward.

“Gary Liddle is experienced, he's been there and done it,” said Lee.

“His performances have been good. It’s not as though he’s not been putting in performances to come out of the team, it’s just a change of formation.

“And Jake Hull has been busting a gut waiting for opportunities. He’s come in and hasn’t done anything wrong. So there’s people waiting.”

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