Hartlepool star Nathan Thomas targets promotion challenge
Fine margins are what separates the run-of-the-mill from the challengers in League Two.
That is the assessment of Nathan Thomas who believes Hartlepool United can fit into the top bracket under Craig Hignett.
The 21-year-old has made a big impact for Pools since Ronnie Moore signed the winger from Mansfield Town for an undisclosed fee in the first half of the January transfer window.
Thomas’s best form came under Hignett, a spell when the side showed promotion form as they moved from strugglers to the security of lower mid-table.
Pools failed to take any top scalps, though they did draw with Northampton Town, the goalless draw at Victoria Park ending the Cobblers’ 10-match winning run.
But Thomas thinks Pools are capable of competing with the leading sides.
“We’re not far off them,” he said.
“You could see when we played those top sides at the end of the season they have that little bit of extra quality.
“The Morecambes and Barnets of this world we beat don’t take their chances as much.
“But that’s why the top sides, the Oxfords and Accringtons, are top of the league.
“It’s margins, we’re so close to being a really top team in the league. We’re not far off, maybe one or two percent.
“That’s what the top teams have, those fine little margins.
“I’m sure next season we’ll be absolutely flying.”
Thomas’s confidence comes from the way Hignett, allied with first-team coach Curtis Fleming, has brought out the talent in the squad.
“We were creating more chances since the time I signed,” he said.
“But the quality has always been there, it was just getting the best out of the lads.
“There’s a lot of really good footballers in the squad.”
Thomas bagged five goals for Pools and will be one of the players he says the side need if they are to step up.
“The difference between getting promoted and being mid-table is defending your six-yard box really well and have that cutting edge up front,” said the former Sunderland youngster.
“Hopefully next season we can nail down those fine margins and have a real good go because we’re not far away.”