A Little Tweaking


Doesn't time fly. Christmas came and went and a third of the football season is almost over. So now is as good a time as any to do a third-of-the-season review.

At the time of typing, a very average Pools side is sitting in third place in the National league table. (That's the third ...oops, fourth time I have used this word in two and a half sentences!) Not a bad place to be at this stage of the season it has to be said. Yes, some teams have games in hand but have to play each other but we already have the points in the bag.

I said Pools are an average side, perhaps I should have used the words inconsistent, inexperienced, frustrating and at times a naïve side. That said, I believe it only requires a few little tweaks here and there which would guarantee Pools a play-off spot.

There are several areas Dave Challinor needs to look at. Our main problem is that of the central threesome who, along with a goodly number of the squad, are lacking experience with not a lot of miles on the clock and still learning their trade on the job. I am convinced that with the imminent return of Gary Liddle in defence, he would take charge and watch out for his fellow defenders who play either side of him by being vocal and marshal, cajole and guide them them in such a manner that they will eradicate many of their schoolboy errors.
"Challinor has been quoted as saying some players do not listen. Could be a case for sending them for hearing tests."

The one thing Dave Challinor's team has over many past Hartlepool sides is pace and they have plenty of it but it is not being fully utilised as it was at the beginning of the season. Nicky Featherstone needs to play more incisive forward balls, as he did at the start of the campaign; however, he has reverted back to form by passing sideways and backwards. Looks very pleasing on the eye but is unproductive.

In the latter part of the first half in the game against ten-man Stockport I reckon Featherstone must have passed the ball 20 or 30 times plus, without any probing or impact on our opponents' defence and achieving nothing other than slowing the game down to walking pace. The commentator on the live stream broadcast put this static state of play down to the fact that our forward players were not making any runs or making themselves available for Featherstone. I would argue that they were bored into submission and had all the life sucked out of them, waiting for a cross to come into the box. Unsurprisingly when Stockport went down to nine men, unless Pools were trying to conserve their energy for the busy December fixture schedule, nothing changed. It was much like watching Manchester City on barbiturates.

Pools should be playing to their strengths and as they have the resources to play at a higher tempo should do so by getting the ball into the box quicker and and by not giving the opposition the time to get back and regroup. With someone like Luke Armstrong lurking in the penalty area this is a must.

The other thing for Pools is to play for the full ninety-plus minutes. Currently, particularly away from home, they start sluggishly but after the mandatory half-time rollicking from the boss they seem to improve in the second 45 minutes. Challinor has been quoted as saying some players do not listen. Could be a case for sending some of them for hearing tests.

Another thing which annoys me is that when we are pitted against sides who have been reduced to ten men we don't seem to be able to adapt and take real advantage of the situation. We have played four consecutive games where our opponents were reduced to ten men - and in Stockport's instance, nine. Yet in all four cases these sides were putting far more balls into our box and at pace than we did into theirs. Today against Notts County was embarrassing as prior to their centre half being sent off we had eleven back and, excluding the first two minutes of the second half, we had eleven players defending deep and hoofing the ball away only for it to be promptly returned to where it had come from. Did we do anything different to take advantage when County went down to ten men? Not really, and they still had the better chances and had a perfectly good goal disallowed. Basic Stuff.

When six foot five Joe Bunney is playing, I would like to see him in the penalty box when Pools win a corner, preferably stood in front of our opponents' goalkeeper. In the game against Stockport, Nicky Featherstone was about to take a corner with Bunney stood a couple or three yards away from him as a foil for a short corner, thus rendering him and his height redundant. Puts me in mind of when then England Manager Roy Hodgson gave corner-taking duties to Harry Kane.

Apart from signing a ball-winning midfielder and hoping for a level of consistency, Dave Challinor to my mind does not have to do a lot to mould the current squad into play-off contenders.

Part of this was written up prior to the Notts County game.

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