Hartlepoool boss hails Sam Collins’ influence on defence

Assistant Manager Sam Collins with new Hartlepool United manager Ronnie Moore during the game against Oxford United. Picture by FRANK REID

Assistant Manager Sam Collins with new Hartlepool United manager Ronnie Moore during the game against Oxford United. Picture by FRANK REID

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HARTLEPOOL United’s new found defensive resilience has been praised by Ronnie Moore – with assistant Sam Collins hailed for his influence on the training pitches.

Pools have climbed to within one point of safety in Sky Bet League Two thanks to three consecutive wins based on a solid foundation at the back.

Sam has done a great job with the defence - if they can’t learn from him, who can they learn off?

Hartlepool manager Ronnie Moore

Moore switched to a 3-5-2 formation for the wins over Morecambe (1-0), Oxford United (2-0) and Mansfield Town (1-0) and it reaped rewards with three clean sheets on the spin – the joint longest run of any league team in England currently.

Quite a turnaround from a defence that had previously shipped 57 goals this term, the third worst record in the division.

And with the side’s goal difference currently -28, Moore is keen for his defenders to continue their run of form, learning from player coach Collins, who has 585 games under his belt.

“At the back we have changed it a bit but we have worked very hard with them,” Moore told SportMail.

“Sam [Collins] has done a great job with them and if they can’t learn defending from him, then who can they learn from?

“I can’t fault the way we have defended and in terms of keeping clean sheets, we have seen blocks and interceptions and players throwing their body in the way.

“You earn the breaks if you have lads who are having a good go and Dan [Jones] has come back in and done well alongside Scott Harrison and David Mirfin.

“Against Mansfield we won a lot of first balls and it went a long way to winning – we can’t ask for much more.

“We can also comfortably switch to a back four and it can help us no end, that versatility.

“We have a nice understanding, be it four or three at the back,” added Moore.

Harrison was taken off against the Stags just past the half hour mark, the defender struggling to breathe after a heavy clash.

His departure saw Moore revert to a 4-4-2 formation, with Michael Duckworth slotting in at left-back.

And Moore believes the ability to be able to switch between formations mid-match has reaped rewards, even if some of the players don’t like it.

Jonathan Franks started the game up front alongside Ryan Bird, his favourite position, but was switched to the flanks as Pools looked to win their third match in a week.

Moore added: “Franksy was moved out wide and he wasn’t happy about it so we spoke about it and I told him why.

“We went to a back four and matched them in midfield, putting him wide.

“He had his bottom lip out and I had a word with him and he was a better player for it.

“I didn’t do it for the sake of it, it was to try and win the game and we won it.

“It’s not about individuals, he knows that and second-half he came out and showed what he’s about.”

l HARTLEPOOL United will be backed by more than 1,000 fans for the crunch relegation battle against York City next month.

Tickets for the Sky Bet League Two match at Bootham Crescent have already topped the 1,000 mark, ahead of the game on Saturday, April 11.

Pools are currently bottom of League Two but are just one point from safety, while the Minstermen are 21st, a point above the drop zone.

Pools have received an initial allocation of 1,200 standing tickets and 300 seating tickets, with club officials in contact with City about more being made available.

Tickets won’t be on sale to Pools fans on the day of the game. Subject to availability, they will be available until 1.30pm on Friday, April 10.