NEIL Austin will not play again until Boxing Day after being suspended for four games.

Hartlepool United’s right back was sent-off in Tuesday’s defeat to Oldham at Victoria Park and has been hit with a four-game suspension.

After being red-carded earlier in the campaign against Carlisle the defender, who played every minute of every game last season, gets an extra game suspension on top of the three-game ban for serious foul play.

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He sits out Saturday’s trip to Walsall and is not available until the trip to Carlisle on December 26.

Pools are now 18 games without a win – two short of the club’s worst run, set in 1992-93.

There were signs of changes in the way they played on Tuesday, with new boss John Hughes wanting his players to control the game more with plenty of possession.

The Scot said: “I’m honest enough to say this and a lot might not want to hear this but, we are struggling – for confidence and there’s some trepidation. It might not be pretty, but as long as it’s spirited it gives us a foundation to work on other things.

“We want to try and play and pass the ball and pass it rather than clip it forward too much. I won’t blame anyone out there for losing the ball – show me a guy who has never made a mistake.

“Win, lose or draw, we need a formation and a spirit and we all want to see an improvement.’’ He added: “They are a good bunch and I feel for them so much because I know one or two are better than they are showing and there’s a fear because of the situation we are in.

“When we went a goal down it galvanised us a bit unlike on Saturday and we hope the boys are taking things on board.

“We need to keep shuffling the pack and I’ve been in here seven days and I’ve done all my assessment, know what I want to do, know what my template is to bring success to the club and I’ll work very hard in bringing the kids through.

“All local boys, you get loyalty, can nurture them into the player you want and give them an opportunity. It won’t happen overnight and ask for time for that to happen, but I’ve a vision how it should be going and where we will be going.’’ And while the deadline for emergency loan signings in the Football League passes at 5pm tonight, it won’t affect Hughes who said: “I very much doubt it, but that doesn’t mean when it closes we can’t do business with players looking for club, but we work with what we have got.

“It’s up to these guys, they know it.’’