Progress report: Hartlepool quartet impress at Shildon
It's been a busy summer at Hartlepool United with a whole host of players have walked through the doors to give the Pools XI a very different feel heading into 2018/19.
In terms of options, ability, size and skill this looks a much more balanced unit than the one constructed just 12 months ago.
Within a whisker of putting League One Sunderland to the sword, Pools followed up their positive show against Jack Ross’ men with another professional, clinical performance at Shildon.
But who stood out?
Our man Liam Kennedy looks into the FOUR men who were head and shoulders above the rest last night.
This lad is already looking like a real find for Pools.
Having done a sterling job down the right-hand side of the Hartlepool XI who came within seconds of nabbing a win off League One Sunderland at the weekend, the defender was asked to do the same down the left last night.
And he looked at home on the opposite flank as he continued his lung-bursting runs down the wing.
In a three-at-the-back system you need two full-backs to bomb on and give width to allow others to support the front men. And in Kioso and Mark Kitching Pools seem to have found that.
Full of energy and barking out to his fellow pros at every opportunity, Kioso looks a player mature beyond his tender years.
He may well have only lasted around half an hour of this contest but it is easy to see why Bates and Craig Hignett were keen to get this deal over the line.
Character is one thing Pools have missed in recent years. Former Ross County captain Davies, who wore the armband on the night, has that in abundance.
From minute one he was talking to Myles Anderson and Louis Laing either side of him.
Further back he was also talking young keeper Ryan Catterick through the game.
He’s a leader. And Pools were desperate for that.
Nothing at all against Rhys Oates, as many who read my work will understand I was a big fan of the forward - but James looks like a real upscale on the now Morecambe man.
James played off the right to begin with them swapped flanks with Lewis Hawkins, causing the Shildon backline, who operate four levels below Pools, real headaches.
His hard work from the front set the tone. Where he led, others followed.
All round it was a very good show from the summer new boy.
As Oates produced last season, James must also get goals. He got one on 42 minutes.
On this showing he looked lively enough to cause any side issues, whether playing central or from the wide areas as chief support to Jake Cassidy or Niko Muir.
He’s not the biggest of keepers, of that there is no doubt.
But what he lacks in size, Catterick certainly looks like he can make up for in ability.
Made one or two decent saves in the opening 45 and continued that with a confident showing after the break.
Those sessions learning his trade under the guidance of Ross Turnbull and Scott Loach seem to be paying dividends.