The issues facing Craig Hignett as Hartlepool United follow defeat with FA Cup tie
Having won two games on the bounce, Hartlepool suffered defeat on their travels at the weekend.
And although the scoreline might not suggest as such, it’s fair to say it was one of Pools’ worst performances of the campaign.
Defensively Craig Hignett’s men more than held their own, with Toto Nsiala, Matthew Bates, James Martin and Scott Harrison particularly impressive.
But in an offensive sense, the wheels came off at Adams Park for Pools.
Ahead of a second round FA Cup clash this Sunday at Port Vale, we take a look at the issues facing gaffer Hignett this week.
This is something that seems to be on the lips of every Pools fan at the moment.
So, which formation will Hignett plump for this weekend?
Will he continue with a three at the back or will he revert back to a more orthodox four?
There could be clues in the way the team performed last Saturday.
Hignett decided to start the game with a 3-5-2 formation.
The gaffer called it a 3-4-3, but it never quite seemed to be so at Wycombe, even if that was what it was meant to be by design.
Having performed OK as a three, the team was switched to a 4-3-3 when Wanderers started to turn the screw late in the second period.
While Pools did well with a three/five at the back that act from Hignett proved he trusts a four.
It’ll be interesting to see whether he continues to persist with the three at Vale Park, or goes back to the tried and tested.
Either way, he probably knows now that Harrison, despite failing in the position in the past, can do a job for him on the right of a four if needed.
Up top, things weren’t quite right for Pools at the weekend.
Padraig Amond found himself living off scraps. Life was difficult for the Irish frontman, but he never stopped and his effort can never be faulted.
But, yet again, when Pools needed an out ball, or someone to hold it up, he was crowded out.
To be fair, the man who many have been calling to get in the side - Billy Paynter - didn’t do all that much better himself when given the task of relieving the pressure and giving the Pools attack a proper focal point.
Wider is where the issue is more stark.
Lewis Alessandra will probably keep his place because he is always an outlet, whether through the middle, out right or on the left.
Nicky Deverdics, though, was frustrating.
We have seen in recent weeks just how good the former Newcastle United trainee can be.
His moments of magic sparked both the win v Stamford in the FA Cup first round, as well as the midweek win over Accrington Stanley.
He is a match-winner at his very best, but he struggled to get on the ball at all on Saturday.
It will be a big call on whether to stick or twist with Deverdics.
Paynter could come in, Rhys Oates is in with a shout also, as well as Michael Woods, should the manager see a formation switch as the way forward.
Whether in a four or a three the two full-back roles are up for grabs.
Jordan Richards is back fit and Liam Donnelly could be in contention again.
This could see Lewis Hawkins go back into midfield, if either is chosen by the manager.
On the other side, it will be a tough call whether to stick with Martin against League One opposition, or go for the relative experience of Jake Carroll.