Team news: Hartlepool United v Sheffield United Under-23s
Hartlepool United will play their penultimate pre-season friendly this afternoon with Luke Williams set to make his long-awaited return from injury.
The 26-year-old missed the entirety of last season due to a serious knee injury which required two operations and will start from the bench against a young Sheffield United side at the Super 6 Stadium (3pm kick-off).
Williams has been thought to be on the verge of returning for some time with manager Craig Hignett confirming his fitness but being extra cautious with the player he has dubbed ‘the best in the National League’ once fully-fit.
With just a fortnight to go until Pools kick-off their National League season at home to Sutton United, the preparations are really starting to heat up as Hignett looks set to name a starting XI that won’t be too far away from the side that opens the competitive season.
And Hignett confirmed that he will have his players stepping up closer to the 90-minute mark in the final two friendly matches. Peter Kioso, Kenton Richardson and Fraser Kerr are the only outfield players to complete a full match for Pools so far this pre-season.
“Coming up against Middlesbrough, York and Sheffield United, the quality level is going to go up but that’s what I want” said Hignett.
“We’ve had a few players play 90-minutes already and now we’ll be giving people more game time.
“The sloppy mistakes we’ve seen have been punished against better opposition but I’m still fairly pleased with where we’re at and what I’ve got.”
Ryan Donaldson (calf) is yet to feature in pre-season and will remain a doubt for the start of the competitive campaign. Luke Molyneux picked up an injury at Bootham Crescent though x-rays revealed no fracture to the winger’s left-foot – there has been no set return date confirmed as of yet.
Pools will get another chance to look at Huddersfield Town left-back Romoney Crichlow-Noble this afternoon with the 20-year-old starting as he looks to earn a loan move.
Hartlepool’s line-up v Sheffield United Under-23s: Killip, Richardson, Kerr, Raynes, Crichlow-Noble, Mafuta, Noble, Kennedy, Toure, James, Kabamba.
Subs: Young, Kioso, Kitching, Bale, Anderson, Cunningham, Featherstone, Hawkes, Holohan, Williams, Muir.