Hartlepool v Bournemouth preview
Zambia opened the defence of their African Nations Cup title with a disappointing 1-1 draw in an eventful Group C clash with 10-man Ethiopia at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
Zambia opened the defence of their African Nations Cup title with a disappointing draw in an eventful Group C clash with 10-man Ethiopia at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
Ethiopia's Saladin Said saw his weak penalty saved in the 23rd minute and Sewnet Bishaw's team were reduced to 10 men just after the half hour when goalkeeper Jemal Tassew charged out of his area and made a terrible high challenge on Chisamba Lungu.
Zambia made their numerical superiority count in first-half injury time through Collins Mbesuma, but Adane Girma equalised on 64 minutes, much to the delight of the thousands of noisy Ethiopia fans inside the ground.
The game got off to a lively start with Zambia defender Stophira Sunzu firing over from long range with just 72 seconds on the clock, but it was Ethiopia who should have taken the lead on 16 minutes.
Girma's hopeful long ball was misjudged by defenders Sunzu and Hijani Himoonde and deflected into the path of Saladin, who perfectly lobbed the onrushing goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene only to see the ball take an amazing bounce off the rock-hard pitch and over the bar.
However, Saladin only had himself to blame for not scoring seven minutes later, seeing Mweene dive to his left and comfortably save his weak penalty after he had been brought down by Lungu.
Ethiopia were made to pay for that miss on 32 minutes when Chansa's pass set Lungu clear and, after lobbing the ball wide, he was scythed down by Tassew, whose right boot caught Lungu painfully in the midriff.
Tassew stayed down and received lengthy treatment, but any hopes that would persuade the referee to show leniency were extinguished when the red card was shown as Tassew was carried off on a stretcher.
Nothing came from the resulting free-kick, but Zambia eventually took the lead in injury time as Isaac Chansa's clever header found Mbesuma in between two defenders and he found the bottom corner from 12 yards.
Chansa and several team-mates celebrated with a well-rehearsed routine near the corner flag which was sadly marred by a number of objects being thrown at them from the crowd.
Zambia were unable to find a second goal to kill the game off in the second half and Ethiopia got back on level terms on 64 minutes when Saladin found Girma inside the area and he fired home off the near post.
Five minutes later, Mbesuma was unlucky to be booked for a dive in the area when Aynalem Hailu looked to be pulling his shirt, and despite pushing forward in search of the winner, Zambia were unable to claim all three points.
The current cold snap sweeping the country put paid to the Roots Hall fixture against the Pilgrims on Saturday, providing United's weary squad with a respite from match action after a relentless schedule since the start of December.
The Shrimpers had endured a non-stop back-to-back programme of midweek-weekend games as they battled on in the league, FA Cup and Johnstone's Paint Trophy, taking in 15 games in 46 days.
But after Saturday's rest, Prosser is keen to put behind him the disappointment of defeat against Brentford last time out.
"I think one game (postponed) here and there is okay and to be honest it came at the right time for us," he told the club's official website.
"A lot of teams have seen their games fall foul to the weather over the Christmas period but we didn't so we've not had any rest.
"We have been fighting on three fronts recently so there's been a lot of games and a few tired legs, as well as injuries.
"We'll be all rested and ready for Saturday and that's a game we certainly don't want called off because we want to get back to winning ways."
Boundary Park was covered by several inches of snow over the weekend and with temperatures predicted to be sub-zero all week the game may have been placed in doubt.
However, the Football Association have provided a 'bubble' which will cover the playing surface and be filled with hot air to ensure the pitch is protected from the extremes of the weather.
It should have been put down on Monday but because of the amount of snow groundstaff have had to clear the pitch first.
Oldham are confident though that, at this stage, their efforts will mean the match goes ahead without any problems.
With the match sold out and television revenue bringing in Â£135,850 the tie is big money-spinner for the League One side.
Now the pitch has been taken care of, the club are concentrating on making sure the surrounding areas are clear from snow and safe for spectators.
Groundstaff have begun that clear-up operation but the club have appealed for help from the general public to provide assistance if possible.
"Latics are looking for volunteers to help ensure Sunday's FA Cup with Budweiser, fourth-round tie against Liverpool goes ahead," said a statement.
"They need help throughout the week to clear snow from inside Boundary Park and also the approaches to the ground. If you have free time, simply turn up at the ground."
McDonald, who has played 26 times in all competitions for the League Two leaders this season, is out of contract in the summer.
Vale have inserted a recall clause in the deal enabling them to bring the 24-year-old back to Vale Park after the first 28 days of the loan.
McDonald began his career as a trainee at Manchester City and had a loan spell at Macclesfield before joining Walsall.
He left the Saddlers in June 2011 to join Vale on a free transfer, and has since made 59 appearances for the Burslem club.
Hartlepool manager John Hughes could name an unchanged starting line-up for the fourth successive game.
Hughes has no new injury or suspension worries as Pools chase their first home win since September 1 and has several options at his disposal.
Striker Charlie Wyke, whose loan spell from Middlesbrough was recently extended until the end of the season, is likely to retain his place alongside Steve Howard up front after scoring his first senior goal in the 1-1 draw at Shrewsbury last time out.
Hughes must decide whether to retain 19-year-old Jordan Richards at right-back or recall the more experienced Neil Austin, while fellow defenders Darren Holden and Jack Baldwin, plus teenage striker Luke James are all pushing for a place in the starting line-up.
Goalkeeper Andy Rafferty remains the only long-term absentee following summer knee surgery.
Bournemouth could be without Harry Arter and Marc Pugh at Hartlepool as they look to bounce back from their first League One defeat under Eddie Howe.
Their 3-1 reverse at Walsall ended a 15-game unbeaten run which has moved the Cherries from 21st to eighth in the division but they may have to face rock-bottom Pools without two midfield regulars.
Pugh suffered a dead leg in the FA Cup defeat to Wigan last week and is doubtful while Arter had to be withdrawn just 30 minutes into the clash with the Saddlers as he picked up a calf strain.
Striker Wes Thomas, back in the squad after returning from a loan spell at Blackpool, picked up a head injury on Saturday but should still make the long trip north while Richard Hughes missed the defeat because of illness but trained on Monday.
"We have to make sure it was a one off and go again - what I am looking for now is a reaction," Howe told the club's official website.
"We knew at some time we would get a disappointing result and performance because that is football. We now have to make sure it doesn't happen again for a long time."