Nathan Thomas will excel and excite for Hartlepool United – providing he sticks to the “team structure”.
That was the message from Dave Jones as he prepares to send out Thomas and the side against Exeter City as Pools to try to pull clear of danger (kick-off 3pm).
The forward has come back to fitness and form, as evidenced with two goals in his last two appearances.
He displayed his pace and a calm finish in the 2-1 defeat at Colchester and his goal in the 4-0 rout of Crewe on Tuesday night was typical Thomas, skinning his marker before applying an impudent finish through the keeper’s legs.
Boss Jones said: “He’s a young player, with a lot to learn and has to learn how to play within a team.
“It can’t just be about one person.
“Sometimes in the past he’s been allowed to do what he wants which doesn’t help him or the team.
“If he’s more structured in the way he plays and he believes in the way he is playing then we will see a lot more from him – a lot more goals.
“We will put him in positions where we feel he’ll be the most danger.
“If you play off the cuff it can only last so long, it gets picked up.
“If you want to play higher you need to be more structured in how you play – when to run, how to find the space.
“If you are just a lone shark it doesn’t happen, your team structure will break down.
“You need a team structure around you.
“He’s starting to get to grips with it and getting into positions – you can hear us on the sidelines letting him, and all the lads, know where to go.
“Once that becomes natural for Nathan, and all the players, you will see a far better team.”
Despite the implied criticism of predecessor, Craig Hignett, over the “allowed to do what he wants” line, Jones is a fan of the nine-goal attacking gem.
He once tried to sign the former Sunderland winger when he was in charge at Sheffield Wednesday.
Jones now has him in the blue and white of Pools rather than the Owls and says Thomas knows the score concerning the manager’s team-shape values.
“He’s got that swagger about him, a burst of pace,” said the boss.
“Nathan knows he has to fit into the way we are playing, like everyone else.
“That little bit of exceptional ability some players have – and he is one of them – means you can do something different within a team structure.
“You can’t do it all the time, but doing it every so often that’s will give you the edge.”
He looked more like his old self at Colchester last weekend and then more so against Crewe.
His shooting was wayward but the ambition, the swagger as Jones referred to, was there in abundance, highlighted by that injury-time goal.
An in-form Thomas will be vital to Pools tomorrow against the Grecians at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.