Hartlepool United analysis: Midfield trio the key to Pools' National League destiny
Hartlepool United's midfield has the power to not only win games single-handidly, it can lose them, too.
On Saturday we saw a bit of both in game of two remarkable halves of football at Dagenham.
Deep, caught between a rock and hard place and largely bypassed things were not exactly going to plan at the break for the trio of Nicky Featherstone, Liam Noble and Michael Woods.
Each one of them found themselves far too close to the Pools backline to cause Peter Taylor’s side any real problems.
This was largely due to the long ball tactics of the hosts. It was clear from the off Taylor was intent on taking the potentially deadly three out of proceedings - playing direct balls to the wide areas and up to former Pools man Tomi Adeloye.
And it worked, for a while. But when the trio decided to change things up, push up the park, prompted by a kick up the backside from Matthew Bates in the changing room, they looked the class act we know they are.
Woods began running in behind, as he had last week. Noble was the chief puppeteer and Featherstone covered every blade in behind the pair.
And in a 20 minute period after the break Pools went from one goal behind to one in front, thanks to goals from Noble and Woods, helped by sidekick Featherstone.
As for the opposition goal, Pools were caught on the break - on 36 the Daggers broke the offside trap as McQueen turned in against the run of play.
After the break Pools got off on the front foot, and that positivity was rewarded with a leveller.
A cross from the right was half cleared at the front post, with Muir and James lurking, but it found Woods 12 yards out and he doesn’t make mistakes from that distance - he hammered home via a deflection.
Noble began to have an increasing influence of proceedings and he made and scored the goal that turned this encounter on its head.
His shot was blocked by a home hand, referee Sam Alison had no hesitations in pointing to the spot and Noble made no mistake from 12 yards, sending Elliott Justham the wrong way.
And from then on in, Pools managed to see the game out with relative ease as the home side grew frustrated and ran out of steam.
Play like they did in the first 45 against Dagenham against Chesterfield tomorrow afternoon and things could get a bit sticky.
Come out like they did in the second 45 and it could well three wins out of three on the cards.
This midfield is the drive behind Pools’ success.
While the strikers can go in behind, and come short as well as score goals, and the backline looks more solid than it has in a long time, the midfield sets the tempo and positioning of the majority of the play.
Their drive put Pools on the front foot - and they need to continue to do so, as the season gets deeper.
The real joy of the squad assembled by Bates and director of football Craig Hignett is that if any one of these three does not produce the goods you have proven National League quality in Paddy McLaughlin ready to step in, or a player of the class of Luke Williams, who Pools hope will be fit enough at least for the bench at the Vic this afternoon.
Things look bright in every area of the park, in their own way, but this is only a start.
Pools have won twice and only lost once in the same period it took them to record their first three points last season. The signs, so far, are positive. But wins is all that matter for Pools and three would certainly get Poolies excited this Bank Holiday weekend.