HARTLEPOOL UNITED’S two injured full-backs remain sidelined, with no date set for their return.
Neil Austin has been missing for four games with a toe injury, and Michael Duckworth, carried off with a suspected broken leg last weekend, will both miss tomorrow’s game with Torquay at Victoria Park.

Fears Duckworth broke a leg in the early stages of last weekend’s defeat at Northampton have been allayed, but the right-back is still suffering discomfort. “I don’t know about Michael if I’m bring brutally honest – all we have done it keep him off his feet this week,’’ admitted boss Colin Cooper. “Last Saturday the X-ray was negative, but quite rightly Buster (Ian Gallagher, physio) wanted a second look and revisit it, which we did Tuesday and the only thing I can say is that he is still in pain.

“So Buster is making sure he negates things as he goes along, ruling this out and ruling that out until we get to the crux. “The pain he was in last weekend left us very worried and now we assess him day by day. As soon as the pain goes we can start weight-bearing again and if the pain reappears then something isn’t quite right.

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“Mother nature will tell us how he is feeling. From my point of view, the quicker the better, but there’s nothing we can do if he is in pain. “Last weekend the radiologist said if nothing was broken he could put some ice on it and play the next weekend…. I don’t think it quite works like that. “The one thing is knowing how tough Michael is, and seeing him in such pain, I feared the worst. It’s day by day for him and we have 13 games left and hopefully we get him back for the majority.’’

Austin damaged his big toe in the 0-0 draw with Scunthorpe on Feburary 1. It was hoped he would be available this weekend, but Cooper will again be without his skipper.
“Aussie’s toe is still sore and he is off to see a specialist to see if any orthodontics can help. We spoke in the week and it is still very sore,’’ he said. “You don’t make light of it – he is not someone to miss games and training without good reason.
“When we spoke on Tuesday he was still really sore when he tries to push off and you do that a lot in football.’’

Pools lost last weekend, ending a run of four unbeaten which engineered some hope of the play-offs. They sit tenth, still seven points shy of the top seven, and while they have their next four games against teams scrapping relegation, Cooper admits his players should know what to expect after last week’s efforts from Northampton. Tomorrow’s opponents have been leapfrogged by the Cobbers and now sit bottom of the table, some seven points short of safety.

“The next four games, one or two results aside, at the start of play last Saturday our next games were against five of the bottom six,’’ said Cooper. “While some may not see themselves in a relegation battle, they still need results as no-one wants to get to the last ten games and need results.

“If we get back to what we are good at we can – look at Plymouth and what they did in midweek – we can keep in the hunt and hopefully it gets us up towards Southend. “Perform like at Northampton and we won’t be up there, but we will be positive and see where the 13 games takes us.’’