SIX changes for Hartlepool United boss Matthew Bates to consider ahead of Kidsgrove Athletic FA Cup clash
After the intensity of the National League opening skirmishes, this weekend brings a welcome switch of focus with the FA Cup on Hartlepool United's agenda.
It’s common practice for managers, at every level, to make changes for cup competitions - but will Matthew Bates with Kidsgrove Athletic at the Super 6 Stadium with a place in the first round proper at stake?
When asked the manager was coy, but it seems likely he will use his squad, especially after such a rigorous first three months in the fifth tier.
Kenton Richardson IN - Ryan Donaldson OUT
He’s been patient and this weekend could finally be the time right-back Richardson is given a run out for Pools.
There seemed a reluctance to use the youngster in the big games in the league, most likely due to his inexperienced, but tomorrow seems like the perfect chance to get some gametime under his belt.
And I’ve no doubt, he won’t let Bates down, if given the chance.
Donaldson, not long back from injury, could be one of those rested.
Myles Anderson IN - Andrew Davies OUT
Skipper Davies is integral to Hartlepool’s cause this season - he’s a leader on and off the park. Without him in the team Pools definitely lose something, but his age and the need to manage his body, a rest would be no bad thing.
Waiting in the wings is Anderson, who has proven earlier this season that he is more than capable at centre-half.
In fact, Pools’ best run this season came with Anderson, and his no nonsense style, in the back three.
Paddy McLaughlin IN - Michael Woods OUT
Before a ball is even kicked it’s a change that almost seems set in stone, week-in, week-out.
One of them always seems to come off the bench for the other after an hour or so.
With that in mind this seems one of the most likely changes Bates will make, unless he chooses to play both and give one of his other two midfielders a rest.
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Both are more than capable, with Woods more of a goal threat and former Gateshead man McLaughlin neat and tidy on the ball, as well as capable of finding space between the lines.
Lewis Hawkins IN - Nicky Featherstone/Liam Noble OUT
As previously mentioned, this weekend could be one of the only chances Bates gets to mix things up and give players who he has relied heavily on in the fifth tier opening exchanges a welcome break from duty.
Noble and Featherstone, two cornerstones of Pools’ system, could easily be sacrificed for their own good - not that either will want to sit it out.
Hawkins is yet to get a minute under his belt this season - if there’s one player in the whole squad who needs gametime it’s the midfielder.
It may not even be in midfield the players slots, given he’s versatile enough to play in either full-back role, or, as we saw in pre-season, further forward.
Josh Hawkes IN - Luke James OUT
One of the stars of last season, Hawkes has not been called upon nearly as much this.
Bates is a big, big fan of the player, who was heavily courted by Sunderland last season.
We have seen Hawkes used in a No 10 advanced role off the bench and it would be no shock to see him do the same against the eighth tier minnows.
Marcus Dinanga IN - Niko Muir OUT
Muir and James this season have been almost undroppable.
Yes, they may not have got the goals many, including themselves, would have hoped for but they have been impressive in their all round play, particularly their movement and tireless hassling of defenders.
This weekend is the perfect opportunity to give loan man Dinanga more of a chance.
He’s been restricted to largely late cameos this season and will be desperate to prove he can add worth to this Pools team, especially with Bates looking into the prospect of bringing in another striker in the coming weeks to add to his forward arsenal.
So far he’s looked raw, maybe too keen to impress. Ninety minutes, with the pressure largely removed, will do him absolutely no harm at all.