Bristol Rovers are looking for their first away win in 18 when they make the long trip up to Hartlepool this weekend.
Rovers are winless on their travels in the league since December and will need that unwanted run to end if they are to reach the expectation of promotion this season.
The Gas have had a fairly inconsistent start to this campaign, losing 3 of their opening six games whilst winning two and drawing one and one casualty of their patchy start to the season has been loanee Luke Thomas.
Thomas, who started Rovers’ opening three matches this term has now only made one substitute appearance in the three that have followed and manager Joey Barton has stated that the winger is set to miss out on the trip up north this weekend.
“Luke Thomas, we’ve decided to get him fit, to take him out of the matchday squad for the last couple of games, because we feel we can get more physical work into him,” Barton told Bristol Live.
“He missed pre-season, didn’t really tap in until the last couple of weeks of it. He’s not played since February last year. He’s had a few mad moments both on and off the pitch in between that.
“He needs to get himself as fit as he can to impact games, so we’re having a bit of a mini pre-season with Tommo at the minute and he’ll probably miss next Saturday but will possibly be back with the group the Saturday after.”
“You can’t turn form and fitness on like a light switch, you’ve got to do the hard yards and for whatever reason, he’s been caught in between football clubs.
“So we decided as a group to take a different strategy, on the premise that he’ll come back into the fold even stronger and fitter when he’s ready to join back in.”
Further team news for the Gas is that Barton may start with the same side started the second half in the win over Crawley last weekend. This would mean a full debut for match winner Leon Clarke, with Aaron Collins dropping to the bench.
Hartlepool go into the game having suffered a major injury blow last time out in the defeat to Tranmere.
Top scorer Tyler Burey is going to be out for three months with a hamstring injury.
The Millwall loanee had made a fine start to life at Pools with three goals and an assist in his first four League Two starts and before the outcome of the scan that took place, manager Dave Challinor was hopeful of it being something minor.
“Without having a scan, it would be stupid to speculate too much on that but we think it’s a grade two opposed to a grade three tear,” Challinor told the Hartlepool Mail.
“If he doesn’t do his hamstring Tyler is in and as good a player as Peter Clarke is for them, he’d admit he wouldn’t want to get in a race with Tyler because there is only going to be one winner.
“If his hamstring hadn’t gone then he’s potentially through on goal but that’s the cruel nature of football and we were the victims of it today.
“It’s never ideal and things are set to challenge you. We can’t complain as it’s part of football – injuries and suspensions – and we’ve got to deal with things as best we can.
“One person’s suffering is another person’s opportunity. It’s up to the players in the group to pose us questions through the week to decide who plays at the game next weekend.”
The scan later revealed that the tear was a grade three and Burey will be out for the 12 weeks that Challinor had so desperately hoped it would not be.
With Burey out injured, Challinor may call on the man who replaced him in the loss at Tranmere, Luke Molyneux or there may be an opportunity for Mark Cullen to come into the fold.
Hartlepool United Predicted XI (3-5-2): Killip (GK); Byrne, Liddle, Angol; Sterry, Shelton, Featherstone, Holohan, Ferguson; Goodwin, Cullen.
Bristol Rovers Predicted XI (3-4-2-1):
Max: Hartlepool United 1-0 The Gas
Jack, Sam and Simon: Hartlepool United 1-1 The Gas
Mets: Hartlepool United 2-1 The Gas