Craig Hignett verdict on Hartlepool United goalscoring hero Josh Hawkes
Josh Hawkes' hard work on the training ground paid off for Hartlepool United, the teenager helping Pools end a seven-game losing streak.
The promising 19-year-old has started the last three games, the last two under the guidance of director of football Craig Hignett, and he repaid that faith with the winner at Maidenhead United.
Hignett revealed the midfielder has been pushing for a run of starts for some time now with the attack-minded midfielder reaping the rewards.
Hignett, who expects to hand over the baton to the new manager this week, said: “Josh has been great, he has been knocking on the door for a start for a while and we have given him it.
“We know what he has got, he is a bit more forward thinking than the other midfielders.
“It worked really well, they complimented each other well.
“We have been doing work with him and working off the strikers and working off the back of midfield players, last week he was excellent.
“This week he was excellent, he got his goal and deservedly so.
“He still needs to work on his fitness a little bit, he was tiring towards the end but he is a young lad and that will happen.”
Hawkes’ first half strike proved enough for Pools who put an end to their dismal run of form.
Hawkes, often a forgotten man under former manager Matthew Bates, impressed yet again as United secured a long-awaited victory.
Hignett made just one change from the side that surrendered a late lead against Dagenham & Redbridge last weekend, with Myles Anderson recalled after recovering from injury.
And Pools began brightly, putting their hosts under some early pressure without seriously testing goalkeeper Carl Pentney.
Niko Muir threatened to get on the end of a cross while Liam Noble saw an in-swinging free-kick punched away as the visitors upped the pressure.
The pressure eventually told on 17 minutes, when Hawkes’ low effort found its way past Pentney to hand Hignett’s side a deserved lead.
Maidenhead rallied, with Anderson and defensive partner Carl Magnay doing well to crowd out Remy Clerima as he looked to convert a teasing cross.
Pools were dealt a blow, however, when Peter Kioso was withdrawn through injury ten minutes before the break. A stretcher was called for the defender, who was replaced by Kenton Richardson.
The last chance of a fairly tepid first half fell to Liam Noble, but United’s vice-captain saw his long-range effort deflected wide by Rene Steer.
But the visitors were handed an advantage at the start of the second half when James Comley saw red for the hosts - his reckless challenge on Luke James seeing him given his marching orders.
And Hignett’s side looked to make that advantage count immediately - Muir forcing a good save from Pentney before Noble sent a free-kick from distance narrowly wide.
Ultimately, though, one goal proved enough for Pools who put an end to their wretched form of late.
Hignett added: “I was happy with the clean sheet and everybody should be really pleased and proud of themselves.”
Job done. The next job facing Pools is to appoint a new manager.