THREE key issues on Craig Harrison's agenda ahead of Hartlepool's trip to Maidenhead
It's uncharted territory for Hartlepool United again tomorrow as they travel to Maidenhead United, who are making their debut in England's fifth tier this season.
And it’s fair to say Pools, a 96-year Football League stalwart, have not had it all their own way since dropping down a level.
The opening day defeat to Dover gave Hartlepool a rude awakening to the National League, while lessons were also learned in Tuesday’s hard-fought draw at Macclesfield Town.
But, with every game, Craig Harrison’s men seem to be getting better and better.
Still more improvements must be made if Pools are to record their first win of the campaign at York Road tomorrow lunchtime (12.30pm kick-off).
But what concerns are on the manager’s agenda ahead of the trip south? Our man Liam Kennedy takes a close look at THREE key decisions facing Harrison today.
We’ve only seen 180 minutes of competitive football from Pools so far this season, but already there have been four different formations given an airing.
Hartlepool deployed a lone striker, in various guises last Saturday, before switching to a 4-1-2-1-2 and then more conventional 4-4-2 in the second half at Macclesfield on Tuesday night.
While it is early days this season, the manager needs to nail down a formation and system that fits the players at his disposal.
By far the most convincing of the teams fielded was that in the latter stages at Moss Rose.
While your modern-day football hipsters hate even the thought of an ‘old fashioned’ 4-4-2, it worked a treat for Harrison & Co.
His team had balance, purpose and solidity. And I think it suited Jake Cassidy and Padraig Amond much better, too, with crosses coming in from both sides, where they had been lacking for the previous game and a half.
On the whole, there are few players who can take much, if any, criticism for their opening two performances.
But, in search of three points, the manager may look to tweak this weekend.
One player who would seem to be under threat, particularly in a 4-4-2, would be Jack Munns.
He was taken off on Tuesday night, after a decent show, but, when the left-footed Blair Adams was introduced, Pools looked to have a better shape to them.
It could be the case that Adams gets the nod this weekend, if not at left-wing, it might even be at left-back, with Liam Donnelly given a tough, tough time by two widemen intent on wrong-footing him.
Elsewhere, the team looks like it picks itself.
Scott Loach has looked a class act, Scott Harrison and Louis Laing’s partnership is growing, Carl Magnay has been a rock, Ryan Donaldson’s class shone through the other night, while Conor Newton is getting up to speed and the front two are look a right handful.
Michael Woods, one of pre-season’s stand-outs, might have a case for a recall, so too Rhys Oates, if fit.
Goalkeeper Loach mentioned it post-match last week, and I think he was spot on – Pools looked like a rabbit in the headlights against Dover.
Maybe it was the pressure of the occasion and a hangover from last year.
Their levels improved no end on Tuesday and, in the second half, they looked at their absolute best.
Harrison needs to make sure he players channel their energy from Macclesfield and reproduce tomorrow, even with the added pressure of being live in front of the TV cameras.