Hartlepool Utd’s team is picking itself at the moment

JOHN Hughes admits his Hartlepool United team is “picking itself” at present.

Even though Pools have won just once under his care, the Scot says he is witnessing signs of progress.

Indeed, he has now named the same XI during the last three matches and was set to do so again tomorrow with Colchester United coming to town, until the fixture was beaten by the Arctic blast.

“Sometimes a team picks itself,” he told SportMail.

“We have to be solid to begin with but I think the formation allows us to open up and be expansive if we need to.

“I think the boys in the dressing room are now under no illusion of what they have to do.

“That comes with continuity and I like that.”

Hughes, though, is still keen for those on the periphery of his first-team to press their claims for a recall.

But he says that players in possession of the jersey will not be dropped after one below-par outing.

“If a player is off it then you have a word in their ear and say, ‘listen, you’ve got two or three games to pick up’,” he continued.

“If a manager said that to me and I had three games to prove that I’m the man then I’d go out and do it.

“The boys in the starting XI are still looking over their shoulder at the other lads who are chomping at the bit and looking to come into the side.”

But the make-up of the current side – deployed in a 4-1-3-1-1 formation – is pleasing the 48-year-old boss.

“Jon Franks is getting on the ball more now in a central role,” he said.

“He takes the ball for a run and that takes us up the park.

“Simon Walton is sitting there screening the two centre-halves but he’s also getting on the ball and is getting us playing.

“That allows Ritchie (Humphreys) and Sweens (Tony Sweeney) to go tight in midfield and nullify what the other team is trying to do.

“Peter Hartley is starting to play really well and Sam (Collins) is doing well in there at the back as well, using experience to guide others.

“I just feel confidence and momentum is starting to go our way.”