DAN Jones is loving life in the Hartlepool United first team – but admits his first full season has proved to be a baptism of fire as the club battles relegation.
The 20-year-old has come up through the ranks at the Sky Bet League Two club and the current predicament affects him more than most because he is a local lad.
Sedgefield-born Jones broke into the side – struggling at the bottom of the Football League – at left-back but he has been switched to centre-back under Ronnie Moore.
The 61-year-old is his third manager of the season and Jones admits it has been an eventful first term in the first team.
But hopes of a dramatic recovery in 2015 have been raised following the 2-0 win over Cheltenham Town, a game which saw Jones and partner Scott Harrison help record the club’s first clean sheet in the league for more than three months.
Jones believes the pair compliment each other well and their form has lessened the manager’s urgency in getting in an experienced central defender.
“It has been a baptism of fire this season, with the team struggling,” Jones told SportMail.
“It wasn’t nice to see the side struggling sat on the sidelines earlier in the season so when you do come into the team you are just looking to do your best and get the clean sheets and some more wins.
“I think me and Scott both compliment each other well because I am left-footed and he is right-footed and we both have pace.
“We are similar players but I enjoy playing alongside him and it was a great feeling to get that first clean sheet and win for a few months.
“To get both at the same time was a good feeling.
“I thought I’d scored as well against Cheltenham but it was ruled offside – I was off celebrating but the linesman had his flag up!
“A clean sheet is our bread and butter though and after the game it was a great feeling to know we had stopped them scoring.
“They had a few lads from Liverpool in there and they didn’t get near the goal so it was a good achievement.”
Jones made his youth team debut three years ago before stepping up a level and becoming a regular in the reserve side.
He signed his first professional contract in the summer of 2013 and made his first team debut against Mansfield Town in April last year, doing enough to earn a new contract last summer.
This is his first prolonged spell in the first team, making 12 appearances so far.
Next up for Pools is a tough trip to promotion-chasing Shrewsbury Town, who are unbeaten at home this season.
Jones told SportMail: “It is not great what has happened so far this season but if we can get another win then it will stand us in good stead for the rest of the campaign.
“Shrewsbury are up there and unbeaten at home so we will be looking to get another early goal and go from there.”