Three areas for Hartlepool United to strengthen in the January window

Will Billy Paynter still be at Hartlepool United when the transfer window slams shut?

Will Billy Paynter still be at Hartlepool United when the transfer window slams shut?

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January is set to be a tight month at Hartlepool United.

The manager has said it, the chairman less so, but anyone who knows anything about Pools knows that funds are not going to be flowing in the market.

Pools have tried a three, a four, even a five at the back but the answer remains the same

But that does not say that players will not come in. Situations change, players leave and wages are freed up.

And what is in no doubt is the need to strengthen.

Hignett admits that he has made plans for the winter window, which opens on Sunday, with or without departures.

But where does the manager need to target?

Here we take a look at the three main areas where Hartlepool could look to strengthen.

Central defence

This has been a big problem area.

They’ve tried a three, a four, a five, but the result is always the same.

Pools have the worst defensive record in the whole of League Two. And it’s for that reason Hignett will almost certainly look to add in the central defensive department.

Long term concerns remain over the fitness of Rob Jones, who suffered a knee injury in the FA Cup loss at Port Vale.

Matthew Bates has been solid, but he lacks a partner. Well, a partner who can produce week-in, week-out.

Toto Nsiala for the most part this season has looked decent. But recently he has looked like he’s never played the position before. It’s fair to say he’s had a tough December.

And that’s why Hignett has turned to Scott Harrison. Harrison has looked solid and was imperious in the rearguard action at Portsmouth the weekend before Christmas.

But again, inconsistency is something that the former Sunderland trainee suffers from.

Liam Donnelly could be the answer.

There are two problems with that also, though.

The Northern Irishman lacks the height required at this level against teams who invariably have a big lad up top to cause problems.

He is also needed on the right-hand side, while Carl Magnay recovers from a knee operation.

Central midfield

This could be the area where we see some ins and outs.

And on recent form that would be no bad thing.

Nicky Featherstone, Lewis Hawkins and Josh Laurent all bring their own strengths to the table, but the balance is not quite right.

Pools lack a ball-winner in that area. It would be no shock to see the manager add one.

It may not be the experienced head many of are calling for, contractual situations dictate that. It could turn out to be a young, hungry loanee that is asked to step in.

Up front/wide areas

Depending on who leaves, Hignett could opt to sign a wide player with pace, to offset the loss of Nathan Thomas to injury.

The target for Birmingham City, Charlton Athletic and the like, looks to be out of action for a little while yet.

And it is this area where Pools have been most lacking. It has forced a total rethink of the formation and system which was serving them so well, up until the Barnet loss and Thomas’ injury.

All of this depends on whether Billy Paynter departs, though.

Restored to the team of late he has been impressive but talk of his departure remains. Hignett could opt to sign another strike option on loan should the skipper leave for pastures new.