Craig Hignett relishing Hartlepool United’s EFL cup clash at Preston North End

Craig Hignett in consultation with Curtis Fleming at Hartlepool United v Colchester. Picture by FRANK REID
Craig Hignett in consultation with Curtis Fleming at Hartlepool United v Colchester. Picture by FRANK REID
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Craig Hignett says Hartlepool United are under “no pressure” for tonight’s EFL Cup tie at Preston North End.

There are not many harder draws Pools could have received.

It’s an away game, against a good championship club, there’s no pressure on us

Craig Hignett

A trip to a club which finished 11th in the Sky Bet Championship last season looks a daunting prospect.

But boss Hignett insists Pools have nothing to lose at Deepdale (kick-off 7.45pm).

“It’s an away game, against a good championship club, there’s no pressure on us,” said Hignett.

“We can go there and try to enjoy it on a good surface and at a big stadium.”

As SportMail reported yesterday, Hignett is likely to make a number of changes for the first round tie against Simon Grayson’s side.

Hignett left out a number of high-profile players for Saturday’s League Two curtain-raiser against Colchester United.

Matthew Bates, Nicky Deverdics and Michael Woods were all sat behind Hignett on the bench and the trio could start tonight, as could Josh Laurent, should the boss opt to return to a central trio in midfield.

“It’s a squad game,” reiterated Hignett. “I’m happy with my squad and the lads who had a case to play on Saturday could play [tonight].

“Whatever XI I put out will be a strong team.”

It will need to be.

Pools are facing not only a side of quality but one whose players may have a point or two to prove to their manager.

Grayson was not a happy chappy with his team after they started the Championship programme with a 1-0 defeat at Reading.

The Lilywhites chief felt his players didn’t really ‘turn up’ as new Royals manager Jaap Stamm enjoyed an easy first match in the dug-out.

“We were two yards off the pace in the first half,” he said.

“When we did press Reading, we didn’t press quickly enough to stop them from getting into a rhythm.

“We didn’t do that as a team and so that was disappointing.

“And we never really looked a threat going forward, either.”

Grayson even resorted to changing his team shape at half-time though it did not do them much good.

Hignett could be weighing up altering his system at Deepdale, having used 4-4-2 on Saturday, not his favoured formation.

He sent out that side so he could get his four main forwards on the park together, but he admits Pools look stronger with three in central midfield instead of two, though it has tp be said that Nicky Featherstone and Lewis Hawkins both performed well in the middle.

“We look better [with three] because you have more options,” said Hignett.

“Sometimes with two [in the middle] you get flat and you can’t find passes and you rely on wide men to drift in offline sometimes.

“I have to weigh up the threat we carry and getting all the attacking players on the pitch.

“That’s what I was thinking about on Friday night for a long, long time when I was picking my team.

“I decided to go with what I did, but over the season I’ll chop and change and play different systems.”

Pools (from): Carson, Magnay, Richards, Nsiala, Jones, Bates, Carroll, Featherstone, Woods, Laurent, Alessandra, Hawkins, Thomas, Amond, Deverdics, Paynter, Oates, Bartlett