JACK Baldwin is set for an extended stay in the Hartlepool United first-team after manager Neale Cooper admitted the teenager epitomised the spirited reaction he had demanded from his players.
The 18-year-old was recalled to the side for Saturdy’s 2-2 draw with Shrewsbury Town, in which Andy Monkhouse salvaged a last-minute point, with Cooper having axed three senior players in response to the midweek drubbing at Preston North End.
Restored at right-back in place of Neil Austin, Baldwin duly scooped man-of-the-match plaudits following a performance which married determination and bravery to skill and composure.
And it now looks certain that the softly-spoken southerner will retain his place for this weekend’s trip to Colchester United and beyond.
“The best player on the day for me was Jack Baldwin – I thought he was superb,” said Cooper as he today reflected on the point which kept Pools out of the League One drop zone.
“He put his head in where it hurts twice in the first five minutes and I thought that was brilliant, that’s what I was after.
“He looked like one of the best right-backs I’ve seen and I know that’s not his natural position.
“He was stepping forward when he had to and he made some great challenges and won headers, a great game.”
Baldwin had been unfortunate when he was left out ahead of the 5-0 thumping at Deepdale having done well at full-back in the 1-1 draw with Bournemouth three days earlier.
Cooper had accused some of his players of “not wanting to play for him” following the Preston collpase, something he could never level at the whole-hearted Baldwin.
Indeed, the Pools boss even telephoned the youngster on Friday night to wish him the best of luck.
“I phoned Jack on Friday to see how he felt and told him to go in there and enjoy it,” he revealed.
“He’s a great lad and a pleasure to work with and he’s got that maturity for a young boy.
“He loves being here and that’s great to see.
“His mam and dad usually come to all of the games as well but they’re away on holiday, so they missed his best game yet.
“But I’m sure there’ll be plenty more because the boy is a real talent.”