Graeme Lee facing a 'selection headache' as Hartlepool United prepare to host Blackpool in the FA Cup

Graeme Lee believes he has some tough decisions to make following Hartlepool United’s Papa John’s Trophy success over Bolton Wanderers.

Thursday, 6th January 2022, 12:45 pm

Pools got the better of Ian Evatt’s League One side thanks to Matty Daly’s late strike at the Suit Direct Stadium in what was a much changed line-up from Lee.

The Pools manager made eight changes from the team who drew with Oldham Athletic on New Year’s Day in League Two with goalkeeper Ben Killip and defenders Timi Odusina and Neill Byrne the only ones to remain in the starting XI.

Byrne captained the side in Nicky Featherstone’s absence and Lee admits the performance of his team has given him a headache going into Saturday’s FA Cup third round tie with Blackpool.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Graeme Lee faces a selection headache for Hartlepool United's FA Cup third round tie with Blackpool after a number of players impressed in midweek against Bolton Wanderers. Picture by FRANK REID

“We look at the squad and there’s no one guaranteed to be starting.

“You’ve got your players who you think, and you know if they perform right, they’re going to be the ones you want on the pitch but again the lads have shown, they worked all over the pitch and they fought for each other so it was pleasing,” said Lee.

“I said to the lads I’ve already got a headache thinking about Saturday but it’s a good thing, that’s what we want.

“From what I’ve seen in training, the ones who haven't played yet under me I had no question about the efforts and application and what they were going to come with.

Joe Grey was one of a number of players to have impressed Hartlepool United boss Graeme Lee in the win over Bolton Wanderers. Picture by FRANK REID

“I thought Joe Grey on the left hand side worked his socks off. He was effective in the game for a young lad going into that type of game. He was a massive plus for us.

“Fela [Olomola] on the other side, again positive.

“Mols had to lead the line up top by himself against big lads but he held it up and linked up but I could go through the team there’s lots of positives and we’re pleased.”

Not only did Lee shake things up in terms of his team selection against Bolton, but the Pools boss utilised the Papa John’s Trophy as an opportunity to alter his formation away from a 5-3-2 system which Pools have been so accustomed to over the past 18 months.

Lee made the bold decision to play four in defence with Welshman Eddy Jones in at right back due to injuries to Jamie Sterry, Reagan Ogle and Luke Hendrie.

Grey and Olomola were utilised as wingers in a flexible 4-4-1-1 system as match winner Daly occupied the space in behind Molyneux. It was a move Lee has been eager to try out.

“The change of formation was something I’ve been wanting to tweak and have a look at.

“As a team we’ve played the same formation with the use of three at the back and wing-backs. I like wingers at times and I wanted to see.

“I thought the two lads grafted their socks off in the wide areas and were positive when they got on the ball and affected the game. It just gave us that extra option.

“So there was a lot of thought has gone into it. You always worry about what performances you’re going to get when the lads go onto the pitch at the start of the game but I was pleased. Ten minutes in I thought ‘this is all right.’

A message from the Football Clubs Editor

Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Hartlepool United coverage 365 days a year.

This depth of coverage costs, so to help us maintain the high-quality reporting that you are used to, please consider taking out a subscription to our new sports-only package here.

Your support is much appreciated. Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor.