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Although just a point against bottom-of-the-table Oldham Athletic on Saturday could be viewed as a disappointment for Hartlepool, it was still one more recorded on their way to achieving a potentially comfortable finish on their return to League Two.
After earning promotion back from the National League last season, few could have predicted that Hartlepool would be sitting in a strong position of 15th at the halfway stage of the campaign.
With nine points now being between the Monkey Hangers and Scunthorpe United in the drop zone, little pressure is on Graeme Lee‘s side, and as a result their full focus can now turn to their cup tie on Tuesday.
Lee’s first match in charge of Hartlepool was the shock 3-0 triumph at League One giants Sheffield Wednesday back at the start of December, and with two more wins and just one defeat following in his next five games, confidence will be high in the League Two side’s camp ahead of their clash with another third tier opponent.
In addition to this, despite sitting in the bottom half of the table, Hartlepool possess the fourth-best home record across their division at this stage after picking up 24 points from their 12 home league games so far, so there are plenty of reasons for Lee’s side and their supporters to believe in another cup upset on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Bolton’s long-awaited return to action ended in disappointment on Saturday, as Ian Evatt‘s side fell 2-1 to League One leaders Rotherham.
Eoin Doyle equalised for the Trotters just before half time, but despite matching their high-flying opponents for much of the encounter, they came away empty-handed come the final whistle.
That defeat was Bolton’s first fixture for three weeks, after their previous three matches against Wycombe Wanderers, Morecambe and Burton Albion had all been postponed due to COVID-19 issues.
Hartlepool were glad that Jamie Sterry overcame an illness to start and put in an excellent display against Oldham on Saturday, after being substituted off in their previous fixture.
Tyler Burey continues to work his way back to full fitness and made his first start in four months at the weekend, whilst his teammates continue to recover to 100% themselves since their recent COVID-19 outbreak.
His strike partner Jordan Cook hobbled off just after the 30-minute mark though, so the forward’s availability will be assessed in the build-up.
As for the visitors, they could hand a debut to their new acquisition Dion Charles on Tuesday, who narrowly missed out on signing in time for Saturday’s defeat after arriving from Accrington Stanley.
Kieran Lee remains unavailable though, with the midfielder suffering from the effects of catching COVID-19 following the recent outbreak within the Bolton camp.
Jordan Williams was also absent from the loss at Rotherham due to isolation, but with him expected to return to training on Monday, he will be in contention to feature on Tuesday.
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Hartlepool United possible starting lineup:
Killip; Sterry, Byrne, Liddle, Odusina, Ferguson; Holohan, Featherstone, Shelton; Burey, Molyneux
Bolton Wanderers possible starting lineup:
Dixon; Senior, Santos, Johnston, John; Williams, Thomason; Kachunga, Delfouneso, Afolayan; Doyle