Dave Challinor explains Josh MacDonald's absence at Hartlepool United as he prepares to give him an opportunity to impress against former club Halifax Town in the FA Trophy

Josh MacDonald is set to get an opportunity to impress for Hartlepool United on his return to Halifax Town this weekend.

Friday, 18th December 2020, 12:09 pm

Pools signed the winger from Halifax in the summer but he has since made just two FA Cup appearances for the club and is yet to play a minute of National League football so far this season having been left out of the last 10 matchday squads.

But with Dave Challinor’s side set to face The Shaymen in the FA Trophy third round on Saturday afternoon (3pm kick-off), MacDonald is set to get another opportunity.

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Josh MacDonald of Hartlepool Utd FC under pressure from Ibou Touray of Salford City FC during the FA Cup match between Salford City and Hartlepool United at Moor Lane, Salford on Saturday 7th November 2020. (Credit: Ian Charles | MI News)

“Josh will absolutely be involved,” Challinor told The Mail.

“There will be opportunities and players have had to be patient. You’re motivated as a footballer but there’s that extra motivation when you’re up against your former team, whether it’s positive based on your time there, whether it’s a bit of discontent and wanting to show them, whatever it is, it only adds to it.

“It’s a big opportunity for Josh and for other players coming in especially on the back of recent results.

"It’s obvious places are up for grabs and we’ll be making changes, not wholesale ones, but players will come in and get their opportunity.

"And if they can perform in a way that says ‘you can’t leave me out on Tuesday’ against Stockport County then brilliant because it makes our job easy in some ways but then difficult in others where we’ve got a lot of players competing for the same position.”

MacDonald’s conspicuous absence from the matchday squad has puzzled Poolies, some of whom have been demanding for him to be given a chance following a poor run of form.

The 25-year-old’s two FA Cup appearances saw him grab a well-worked assist at Ilkeston Town before putting in a solid display at Salford City in the next round.

He’ll get another chance at The Shay, but what does he have to do to get into the side for a National League match?

Challinor responded: “It’s been tough because footballers want to play and I’ve had chats with Josh since the start of the season about it.

"He needs to do more and I’m not speaking out of turn there. Looking from the outside in, it’s easy to say this person should get a chance but we’ve got a squad of players that is really competitive and if you don’t get your opportunity on a Saturday then you’ve got to be better than every player in your position Monday to Friday in training.

"So if we’re playing Saturday, Saturday and training all through the week, Josh, and I’ve told him, he needs to be better in training than Oatesy [Rhys Oates], better than Claudio [Ofosu], better than Luke Molyneux, better than Ryan Donaldson, better than Joe Grey, better than those players who he’s in competition with in his position.

“It’s not a case of waiting for an opportunity in a match, it’s about putting yourself in the picture in training where it’s difficult for us to leave you out.

"That’s happened this year with players where they’ve made the majority of the decisions for us. Obviously the match performance is a big part in that because that’s the most important but a close second to that is what you do on a day to day basis.

"There aren’t many players who are poor trainers that are able to turn it on in matchdays. Players will get their opportunities if they deserve them and if they come around you’ve got to do more than enough to go, ‘I’m ready’ and show us that you are and keep forcing that home."

MacDonald’s final season at Halifax was a similar sort of story to the situation he’s currently experiencing at Pools.

The former Marske United man hasn’t started a National League match in over a year having made just four starts for the Shaymen last season.

And Challinor feels the player has a mental block to overcome first if he wants to fulfil his potential at Victoria Park.

"Josh is a tough one because for the last couple of years, he’s had injury problems and then last year he was in a position where it didn’t really matter what he did, he just wasn’t going to play and he’s still in that mindset a little bit,” added the Pools boss.

“He needs to be more positive about what he can do and what he can be and where he wants to get to as a player.

"He’s been in a bit of a rut and it’s important he gets out of it and we’ll help him with that as much as we can but it’s mainly down to him.”

On the FA Trophy itself, Challinor confirmed that Pools are entering the competition looking to win despite the potential for serious fixture congestion.

“We always envisaged that we would be making changes but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re putting out a team to win the game,” he continued.

"It’s our best chance of getting to Wembley and there’ll be nothing better than being at Wembley in June and having 25,000 Poolies there after the year they’ve had.

"It’s a welcome distraction if things are going well but it can be a bit of a distraction further down the line if you’re challenging toward the back end of the season.

“But for now, we’re looking forward to it and we’re looking to do well in the competition.”

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