Hartlepool Utd v Halifax: Three key areas for Pools boss to deal with
Hartlepool United launch a vital pre-Christmas sequence tonight against Halifax Town.
If you were hand-picking opposition to face after a bad home defeat a few days ago, then the Shaymen would be up there at the top of the list after a run of nine matches without a win.
Pools have five games before the festive period and this provides an ideal start.
A victory would provide a real injection of confidence going into a crucial run of matches against sides around them in the table and above them – Ebbsfleet (12th place A), Macclesfield (fourth, H), Dover (first, A) and Maidenhead (13th, H).
SportMail looks at three key areas for tonight’s game.
Freshen up starting XI: Craig Harrison has never been afraid to make changes.
You could never accuse the Pools boss of being shy at altering either the side or his formation – and that’s both before and during games.
Having struggled to get out of first gear in Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat to Aldershot, Harrison will look to re-energise the team.
Aside from the work down the sides by Jonathan Franks, there was little impetus from midfield.
That could mean a recall for either Michael Woods or Lewis Hawkins – or both.
When Pools were enjoying their fine spell of form, the midfielders were key components with the enormous amount of ground they covered.
Nicky Deverdics could revert to left-back from midfield – the 29-year-old proved very effective at full-back, getting forward at will and putting in numerous crosses, something which will be vital if Jake Cassidy is leading the line.
Jack Munns might also be in contention. The diminutive attacker has yet to fire on all cylinders but does possess the eye for a pass behind the defence and if, as expected, Halifax park the bus at the Vic, his vision might well be useful.
Rhys Oates is also an option for a start if Harrison decides to give Devante Rodney a breather.
Harrison is not short on players – Hawkins did not even make the match-day 16 on Saturday – and some fresh legs are essential.
Get on the front foot:
Poor Halifax are going through the mill at the moment – they have not won since September 23, a sequence of nine league and cup matches without a victory.
With the confidence of the Shaymen low, Pools can’t afford to let them settle and gain any sort of foothold.
Harrison is often content to get to half-time with the scoreline at 0-0, giving his team a platform.
Of course, it does not matter whether the winner is in the ninth or 99th minute, but against a struggling side, getting on the scoresheet in the first half would be most welcome.
Pools did not muster one effort on target against Aldershot.
Only three of 19 National League goals by Pools have come in the first 45 minutes.
It’s a stat they could do with improving – a good start would give them a stage not only to win, but give the fans something to get behind.
Set-pieces: Pools have enjoyed a couple of rasping free-kicks via the deadly Deverdics.
It would be great to see his magic left foot putting his foot through the ball tonight from anywhere around the area, from where you’d back him to score.
Also, it would be nice to see him on the corners, delivering some quality from the flag.
Pools had four first-half corners against Aldershot, none of which threatened Lewis Ward in the away goal.
On a day when the side were distinctly off colour, utilising set-pieces could be crucial.