Nathan Pond hopes to force his way into the Fleetwood Town starting line-up at Hartlepool on Saturday – but accepts it will be hard to displace Ryan Cresswell and Mark Roberts.
The centre-half, who celebrated 10 years at Town with a testimonial against Preston North End last month, saw his first action of the season on Saturday as a last-minute substitute for the injured Cresswell.
He had watched from the bench as the Cod Army conceded three goals at home to Burton Albion before staging a second-half fightback which cut the deficit to a single goal.
The 28-year-old admits it will be difficult to replace any of Graham Alexander’s preferred starters.
“It won’t be easy,” said Pond. “There’s strong competition in defence, with Roberts and Cresswell performing well. But I’ll be looking to capitalise on any injuries or suspensions should they happen. It’s down to the gaffer whether I play or not.
“We have had good defenders like Alan Goodall in the past, so the competition has always been strong.”
With Shaun Beeley on loan at Bury, Pond is the only member of the current squad who was at Highbury when Town last faced Hartlepool – in a second-round FA Cup defeat at Highbury in 2008.
Pond watched Town give an excellent account of themselves against the then League One side. “I was suspended for that game in 2008,” he said, “And I suppose you could say we’ll be looking for some kind of revenge on Saturday.”
Pond was stripped and on the field in an instant against Burton, when Town gave up in their efforts to stop the flow of blood from Cresswell’s gashed chin. Club doctor Dr Mark Spencer stitched the defender following the final whistle.”
Unlike Pond, Ryan Crowther has started every game this season but that doesn’t mean he feels secure in his shirt. Crowther said: “I just want to be part of the team and play as many minutes as I can. It has gone well so far and I’m working hard to try to stay in the team.
“We have good players throughout the squad, not just the players who are starting, and everyone is pushing each other to bring out their best form. You know that one bad performance could put you out of the team, so it keeps you on your toes.”
The 24-year-old, signed from Hyde last November, knows Town blotted their copybook against the Brewers.
He added: “We set the standards in the first two league games with good performances and we let ourselves down with a poor performance in the first half against Burton.
“We defended poorly throughout the team, from front to back. We gave a whole better performance in the second half and will look to play like that for the full 90 at Hartlepool. I thought that had we got the equaliser we could have gone on to win but your can’t give teams a three-goal start.
“We’re not too disheartened and will look for three points at Hartlepool. Every game is tough and we will approach this one just the same as we would a team at the top. It’s still early in the season, so you can’t read too much into the fact they have not won in three games. They are dangerous opponents at their place, but if we can stamp our authority on the game we can get the three points.
“We go into every game believing we can win with the squad we have, but we need to cut out the sloppy mistakes we made against Burton.”