JOHN Hughes believes Hartlepool United’s squad players are ready to challenge for a first-team berth.
The Scot watched at the weekend as a Pools XI enjoyed a 4-0 win over Norton & Stockton Ancients at Maiden Castle.
James Poole, Charlie Wyke and Darren Holden were among the scorers, while Jack Baldwin and Nathan Luscombe played the full 90 minutes.
And Hughes was impressed with what he saw against the Northern League outfit.
“A lot of the boys did very well and it was encouraging,” he told SportMail today.
“I didn’t want the weekend to pass by without a match – I believe you can go stale without competitive action.
“Jack, Poolie and Nathan all played the full match and they should be pushing now to get in that first-team.
“Jack was unlucky in that he picked up his fifth booking a couple of weeks back and found himself out of the team, he’d done brilliantly for me before that.
“Poolie has shown what he can do a couple of times from the bench and when he came on at Sheffield United he was different class.
“He got a good goal on Saturday and looked bright again.
“Nathan has had a knee problem which has meant he’s missed a couple of matches, but he’s another one who is coming back into it now.
“So it was a worthwhile exercise and it kept us ticking over.
“We’re back in today and the hard work continues for Saturday.”
Pools had a free weekend following their early elimination from the FA Cup and they return to action at Shrewsbury Town in five days’ time.
The Shrews drew 0-0 at Scunthorpe United on Saturday, climbing to 17th in the table.
Hughes will again have a fully-fit squad to choose from for the trip to Shropshire, although it will not include Matty Dolan, the Middlesbrough midfielder having opted to join Yeovil Town over his hometown club.
However, Hughes ran the rule over two trialists at the weekend and could again include potential new signings when the reserves travel to Mansfield Town tomorrow (kick off 2pm).