Rhys Oates is off the mark at Hartlepool United – and the summer signing could not be happier.
It may ‘just’ be pre-season but his header 20 minutes from time not only protected the unbeaten start to the friendly programme but it gave the former Barnsley star his first goal in Pools colours.
The 20-year-old headed in a cross from Connor Smith for the eqauliser and a block later denied him a second goal and winner.
“It felt really good,” he said. “I even had a little celebration to myself.
“It’s nice to get off the mark and it helps with confidence. I just hope to get a few more in the season.”
Oates is settling in smoothly at the League Two side following his switch from Oakwell.
Like all the players, he echoed the view that pre-season is the hardest he’s been through.
But he says getting sharpened up for the ‘real thing’ on August 8 is what the squad is building towards.
“I’ll keep playing and keep doing what I can,” he said.
“It’s all right doing all the fitness work but match fitness is totally different.
“I’ll keep working on my confidence and try to get a few goals.
“I feel all right, but I think I need to get a bit sharper technically and keep the ball better.”
Oates, who will play at Spennymoor today, showed promise at the Turnbull Ground last night and could easily have had two more.
“Nicky [Featherstone] played me in a couple of times,” he told SportMail.
“One shot was blocked and the other ball went under my foot.
“On another day, I’d touch it and put it away.”
Oates feels the new-look squad is “gelling well” – it was bound to take time after 10 signings came in.
“I think if we keep gelling as we are, then we can have a good season,” said the forward who says he is setting in well.
“We are making a lot of progress.
“ We are getting to know how each other plays.
“Settling in has been a lot easier than I thought. The lads have been good with me and welcomed me into the squad.”