Hartlepool United boss Matthew Bates talks tactics, Ryan Donaldson's impact and his Kenton Richardson conundrum
Key man Ryan Donaldson has the intelligence to play anywhere in the Hartlepool United team - that's the view of Matthew Bates.
The Pools winger has mainly been deployed as a right wing-back this season, but was cut loose in a more advanced role against Gillingham last weekend.
With Bates mulling over whether to stick with 4-4-2 or go back to his standard 3-5-2, he is confident Donaldson (pictured) can produce the goods whatever his position.
“Ryan is an intelligent footballer,” said Bates, ahead of his side’s National League clash with Barnet on Sunday.
“He was a threat against Gillingham but it was not just the forward work that impressed.
“It is the other side of the game that impresses me about him - he works hard for the team, will drop back in.
“Defensively and in our shape he was excellent. And wherever he plays he fits perfectly into the team.”
The system is also key to another one of Hartlepool’s better FA Cup performers.
Kenton Richardson looked at home on the right-hand side of a four at the back, more than the youngster ever has in Donaldson’s more regular slot on the right of a five-man midfield.
It was a performance that pleased Bates, with the player likely to keep his place for the return to fifth-tier action.
“He was excellent,” said Bates of the 19-year-old, who has started just one league game this season - the 1-0 home loss to Ebbsfleet in August.
“It has been frustrating for Kenton because the 3-5-2 formation probably doesn’t suit him so much, or not as much as it does Ryan.
“Despite that, he has kept himself right - he is a good, good pro.
“And I have said to him in the past that he needs to be ready to perform when we need him to step in. To be fair to him, he was.”
The question on everyone’s lips this week has been about whether Bates will revert to his favoured 3-5-2 or stick with the four-man defence which served him so well down in Kent.
The manager admits last weekend’s performance has given him food for thought moving forward - although he stopped short of committing to sticking with the change.
“It is a system we have worked on in training, just in case we needed it. It worked,” said Bates.
“We had to change some personnel so we changed the system, too. We have seen it work. It now gives me food for thought.
“I have seen that we can play two different systems in matches and get results. I think we can play equally as well in both formations.”