Hartlepool v Portsmouth preview

Team news ahead of Saturday's League One clash between Hartlepool and Portsmouth at Victoria Park.

Last Updated: 21/12/12 at 11:54

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Hartlepool boss John Hughes could be given a triple boost in his search for a first win in charge of the club against Portsmouth.

Hughes, who replaced Neale Cooper in mid-November, has lost four and drawn one of his first five games at the helm, but midfielders Nathan Luscombe (knee) and Simon Walton (hamstring), plus defender Peter Hartley (conjunctivitis) all returned to training on Thursday and hope to be in contention for the weekend.

Defender Evan Horwood could face a late fitness test after being forced off with a groin injury early in last week's defeat at MK Dons. Teenager Darren Holden replaced him on Saturday and is on stand-by.

Another teenager, striker Luke James, also hopes to return to the squad following a bout of tonsillitis, but goalkeeper Andy Rafferty remains a long-term absentee following his summer knee operation.

Pools, 11 points adrift at the foot of the table, are chasing their first win since September 1 - their only success in League One this season.

Paul Benson returns to the Portsmouth squad for the trip to Hartlepool.

The striker missed last Saturday's goalless draw against Preston with a virus but has returned to training this week.

Jake Jervis took Benson's place in the starting line-up at the weekend so he could be the man to make way if the former Dagenham frontman earns an immediate recall.

Benson's return means caretaker boss Guy Whittingham has a fully-fit squad to choose from.

Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Lee Williamson came off the bench against Preston and will be pushing for places in the starting line-up should Whittingham change things around with Pompey winless in 10 matches.

They are back in the relegation zone and still have the possibility of a 10-point penalty hanging over them.

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