Nigel Atangana won praise from Andy Awford after his unexpected early arrival on Saturday.
The Blues midfielder has just returned from a hamstring strain he suffered in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win at Yeovil and came through 45 minutes for the reserves in midweek.
That saw the Blues boss name him among the substitutes at Hartlepool.
But James Dunne’s early withdrawal because of a head injury saw the former Hawks man thrown on with barely a quarter of an hour on the clock.
And it was obvious that Atangana was not quite at his physical peak upon his return as he got through the rest of the game.
Blues boss Awford said: ‘I didn’t want him to have to go on that early.
‘I’m glad he only had the 45 minutes in the week for the reserves.
‘If he’d had 60-odd minutes, it would have been even harder for him.
‘He loooked fine but he tired in those last 10 minutes. I think everyone could see that.
‘That’s understandable because he’s been out for a few weeks.
‘His decision-making was a bit off at times, but you expect that because he has been out for a while.
‘You lose that sharpness when you miss a few games as he has.’
Awford admitted he would also have replaced him if he hadn’t been trying to snatch the win with more attacking substitutions.
New loan recruit Michael Drennan came on just past the hour mark, while winger Andy Barcham was thrown into the action late in the second half to replace Patrick Agyemang.
‘I could have got Johnny Ertl or Nicky Shorey on to replace Nigel but we wanted to win the game so I went with Andy Barcham,’ said Awford.
‘I thought Nigel was great to get on that early and get through it.
‘It was a big effort from him but he didn’t feel any reaction so that’s good news.
‘He will get sharper with a bit more training under his belt.’
Dunne, meanwhile, made a quick recovery from the injury he suffered in an early clash of heads.
Awford said: ‘It was just a precaution to take James off.
‘The physio told me that we needed to be careful.
‘I have to listen to an expert’s advice and we couldn’t take any risks.
‘He is absolutely fine but when you get a bump on the head, you have to be careful.
‘Had it been the FA Cup final, we would probably have sent him out again.
‘But we had options on the bench so I felt it was the right thing to do at that time.’
– STEVE WILSON