FIVE into two won’t go – but when it comes to the forward line, Robbie Simpson reckons Lee Clark has got his sums right.
Town’s quintet of frontmen have all featured at some stage of the last three games, against Brighton, Swindon and Carlisle.
And Simpson, who fired a hat trick as the reserves beat Rotherham 6-0 on Wednesday, is eager to discover which players will get the nod at Hartlepool tomorrow.
Jordan Rhodes and Lee Novak are the favourites after each scored in Tuesday’s impressive 2-1 League I victory at Carlisle which left Town just a point of the play-off places.
Novak’s cool sixth-minute finish took his season’s haul to nine, the same as Theo Robinson, who came on as a substitute in last Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Swindon.
And Rhodes’ 56th-minute header was the 18th goal of a highly impressive first Town campaign by the former Ipswich player.
Simpson has been battling it out with Rhodes, Novak and Robinson all season, and now there’s even more competition in the shape of Liverpool loanee Nathan Eccleston.
The 19-year-old made a fleeting appearance from the bench at Carlisle, having started alongside Simpson in the goalless draw at Brighton.
“The competition for places in most positions is fierce, but that’s the way it needs to be,” said the 24-year-old former Coventry man.
“You have to be switched on for every training session, never mind match, because when the chance comes, you have to be able to take it.
“For the forwards, Nathan’s arrival has made it even tougher, because he’s a very good young player.
“He’s looked sharp from his first training session here, and he got off to a great start with a goal on his debut down at Yeovil.
“Nathan’s still waiting for his second, but I don’t think it will take him too long, because his pace and power make him a very dangerous player.”
Another player hoping his contribution in a reserve match has caught the eye ahead of tomorrow’s Victoria Park clash is James Brown.
The Hartlepool man’s return from a knee injury in Wednesday’s second-team clash with Scunthorpe was spectacular.
Introduced from the bench midway through the second half, the 23-year-old struck twice in his first three minutes on the pitch.
Hartlepool were 6-1 winners, and Brown, who has three goals at first-team level this season, is hoping his quickfire double can earn him an appearance against Town.
The North-Easterners have netted only 12 goals in the 13 matches Brown has missed, and coach Colin West says his composure in the penalty box has been missed.
“Without trying to put too much pressure on one person, which we don’t want to do, we’ve just missed that bit of flair,” said West.
“He gives you so much whether he plays on the right-hand side or straight up the middle. He gives you that versatility.
“I would say we’ve missed him to a great extent. We’ve been playing exceptionally well over the last four or five weeks but we just haven’t finished the chances we’ve had.
“It’s needing someone with a bit of calmness in front of goal to put the ball in the back of the net.”
While Town aim to stretch their unbeaten league run to eight matches, Hartlepool are seeking a first win in seven.