Five talking points for Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett to address this week

Michael Woods in action for Pools on Saturday
Michael Woods in action for Pools on Saturday
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Yet another home loss for Hartlepool United, yet more questions to answer for manager Craig Hignett.

Well, it’s not quite that simple.
While Pools were edged out narrowly by Grimsby Town on Saturday, they were by no means second best.

One or two Pools players who have dropped out of the firs-team picture in recent weeks could find an exit on the cards

So what does the gaffer have to address this week?

We take a look at five key issues facing Hignett ahead of next weekend’s trip to Crawley Town.

Midfield balance

One area where Pools seems to have struggled in recent months is in midfield.

While they have a number of canny operators at four tier level in this department, they lack certain key components that are prevalent in any successful midfield unit.

Pools have plenty of players capable of getting on the ball and playing neat and tidy passes, but they don’t have a player who can pick a killer one. Nor do they have someone who can break the game up or chip in with goals from the middle.

This is something that might need to be looked at this month.

Is two up front working?

We know for a fact that Hignett is no fan of two strikers up top.

He much prefers a three, with one central striker. His explanation is that you should, theoretically, have more players in the box with the latter system.

With Billy Paynter showing clear signs of fatigue after a hectic festive period, could it be time to go back to a Padraig Amond led line?

Three or four at the back?

Not too many people are a fan of three at the back. I have to say I’m in that camp, too.

But the system operated by Pools in recent weeks seems to be working.

Goals have still gone in, yes. But the gaps that seemed to open up with just two central defenders don’t seem to be as obvious nowadays.

With Matthew Bates in the centre, organising and reading the game, Scott Harrison’s physical presence on one side and Liam Donnelly, comfortable on the ball and clever off it, on the other, Hignett appears to have struck gold.

Add in the new addition of Sean Kavanagh, used to playing in the centre for Fulham’s Under-23 side, on the left of a five man midfield and Pools seem to have plenty of defensive cover.

Who to let leave?

Pools have a rather sizeable squad, albeit a lot of them are youngsters so January is a month when a bit of early spring cleaning wouldn’t go a miss.

One or two of Pools players who have dropped out of the first-team picture in recent weeks could find an exit on the cards.

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for the likes of Jake Carroll and Nicky Deverdics. Rob Jones is a player who must also be close to an exit.

Letting bodies leave can only be a good thing for Hignett, who needs cash released before he can even consider dipping into the marker for reinforcements.

Incomings

Departures then brings the question of who to bring in? Pools are lacking in three key areas for me.

Central midfield is a problem. Pools could do with a player who can tackle and break the game up in there to complement what they already have.

Further forward a winger to step in for the pace lost since Nathan Thomas, who is said to still be some way off a return, was forced to go under the knife.

In an ideal world you would add a big, strong centre-forward, a staple in League Two. Where he would fit and who would drop out is another question altogether.