Three key areas for Hartlepool boss Craig Hignett to address

Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett says he will resist the temptation to make wholesale changes for tomorrow night's clash with Accrington.

Monday, 21st November 2016, 6:23 am
Updated Monday, 21st November 2016, 12:27 pm
Nicky Deverdics sends in a cross for Pools

But the gaffer has hinted that he might tweak his starting XI at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.

Here we take a look at the three areas where Hignett might look to make personnel changes, after his side were beaten 2-1 by high-flying Doncaster Rovers at the weekend.

Central defensive changes?

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This is definitely something the gaffer will have to weigh up.

Matthew Bates has been a revelation since coming back into the side four games ago, but Saturday was one of his more difficult matches.

The experienced defender struggled to contain forward John Marquis, who always seemed to be able to find a yard of space in the area.

Aerially he had difficulty and his distribution let him down also.

But, in all honesty, it would be difficult to drop him.

Every player is entitled to an off day from time to time.

What Hignett could do, though, is bring fit again Rob Jones back.

The option he has is to throw 37-year-old Jones in for Bates, or he could, of course, pair the two together.

Now, although Bates had a tough time of things at the Keepmoat Stadium at the weekend, I can’t imagine the gaffer will drop a player who has praised so much in recent weeks.

So if he were to mix things up at the back it could well be Toto Nsiala that drops out.

The difficult thing with that is the DR Congo international was Pools’ stand out defender in South Yorkshire.

He was commanding, tough in the tackle, and actually read the game really well at the heart of Pools’ backline.

If he manages to cut out the lapses in concentration and unnecessary risk taking from his game, he has all the tools to be a top quality centre-back at this level. In fact, at his best, he could operate higher.

Would Jones be a better option than either? That’s for the manager to decide.

There is also a third option, even if it is much less likely.

Pools closed the game out with a five-man defence. So, in theory, Hignett could choose to play all three.

The only thing with this idea is that the whole team shape would have to change with it, and given that Hignett has been so rigid in his formation and system, this seems highly unlikely.

Stick with Jordan Richards?

He might have been culpable for the first goal on Saturday, but I genuinely thought the full-back had a decent game at the weekend.

With Liam Donnelly sitting the clash out, Richards filled in well down the right-hand side.

He got forward well and, in the main, did his defensive work with little fuss.

But judging by the reaction of Poolies online, that view does not seem to be the consensus.

With Donnelly classed as touch and go, Hignett must decide whether to risk the Northern Irishman or continue with Richards.

Is Michael Woods worth a shout?

Of Hartlepool’s midfield, the one player who is almost certain to play week-in, week-out is Nicky Featherstone, just because of the nature of the role he plays.

But the other two spots in Pools’ midfield are definitely up for grabs.

It’s unlikely Hignett will take Josh Laurent, who I thought was excellent in a forward and defensive sense, at the weekend out of the side.

But Lewis Hawkins, who was quiet on Saturday, could be under threat.

The man who could step in tomorrow night is Woods.

When he came on at Donny, Woods brought a calming influence to the side. He added some energy and quality to Pools’ play and little to no blame falls on his doorstep for the late loss.