Ex-Sunderland attacker given licence to thrill at Hartlepool United by Craig Hignett
Nathan Thomas has been given a licence to thrill by Craig Hignett.
The exciting Hartlepool United advanced player finally broke his goal duck in Saturday’s vital 3-1 at Barnet.
Hignett expects more goals from the 21-year-old as well as a greater attacking menace in open play.
The Pools boss has given Thomas the freedom to go looking for the ball.
“You look at the Northampton wingers, they go all over the place,” Hignett told SportMail. “I thought Nathan did that at Barnet and he was a threat. I want him to come looking for the ball.
“I had a discussion on Saturday and told him I don’t want him playing in straight lines.
“I’d like him to come inside, to drift.”
Hignett initiated not just a change of mentallity with Thomas at the Hive, but a tweak in the formation.
Thomas was used on the right of lone striker Billy Paynter against the Bees, with Luke James taking the left.
It seemed to work a treat.
Thomas came off the right flank early on and sent a curling left-foot shot just off target and shortly afterwards sent James clear with a delicious through ball.
Alas, James could not convert but it showed the creativity of the ex-Sunderland winger.
“We had a little mix and match with Nathan right and Lukey left,” explained Hignett.
“I felt Nathan coming inside on his left foot would cause them problems.
“I think the lad Martin Allen played at right-back was there just because of Nathan so I was happy to swap him and Luke onto the other sides.
“And it worked, Nathan caused them problems.”
Thomas put his left foot to good use just after the hour with a neat control and rasping shot to give Pools a 3-1 win.
After squandering chance after chance in front of goal, he made no mistake at the Hive.
“Nathan has threatened for a few weeks now, hasn’t he?” said Hignett.
“He should have scored against Yeovil, had a great chance at Luton, headed one over at the back post against Northampton and put a shot over the bar.
“We have kept saying to him in training ‘keep it low’.
“And I think that’s the lowest he’s managed to keep it and it still went into the top corner!
“It has been coming for him, but there’s nothing like scoring your first goal.
“He’ll be delighted with that and hopefully, he’ll go on now.
“With his talent he should be scoring 10 goals a season.”