Hartlepool United manager Kevin Phillips says midweek change in shape was an attempt to match in-form Gateshead

Hartlepool United manager Kevin Phillips said he changed his side's shape ahead of Tuesday's 7-1 mauling at the hands of rivals Gateshead in order to try and match his in-form opposition.
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Phillips had his hand forced to an extent after Alex Lacey, who had been deputising at right-back, limped off an hour into Saturday's draw with Eastleigh.

The switch to a back five therefore allowed young full-back Kwaku Oduroh to line up in a slightly more forward-thinking role that should, in theory at least, have left him less exposed defensively.

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Adding Manny Onariase into the heart of the defence in support of Luke Waterfall and Tom Parkes was designed to make Pools more solid at the back, while moving Terrell Agyemang into a central-midfield role meant the visitors had more legs in the engine room to try and compete with the Heed's metronomic trio.

Phillips made the decision to switch to a back five but it backfired with dramatic consequences.Phillips made the decision to switch to a back five but it backfired with dramatic consequences.
Phillips made the decision to switch to a back five but it backfired with dramatic consequences.

Joe Grey moved from the right into a slightly-more advanced role, effectively as a second striker, to harass and harry the home side's possession-based defence while also seeking to exploit their high line.

And for the opening 10 minutes or so, the strategy worked as Pools went ahead when Grey got in behind to score his 10th goal of the campaign from a tight angle.

Unfortunately for Phillips and the more than 1,300 travelling fans, it was all downhill from there.

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Pools sat deeper and deeper, allowing the Heed defenders to step out with the ball while midfielders Ed Francis, Callum Whelan and Kieron Evans could dictate play at will.

The defense looked like a side unused to the shape as the normally reliable and secure Parkes and Waterfall were dragged from pillar to post while wing-backs Oduroh and David Ferguson appeared to be neither coming nor going, offering nothing in attack but being too high up the pitch to keep track of Gateshead's marauding runners.

The gaps in-between the three central-defenders and the wing-backs meant Heed's midfielders could count on being able to pick out their own flying full-backs in acres of space at almost any given time and a lot of Pools' problems came from the flanks.

When the visitors weren't being exploited from out wide, they were sitting so deep that Francis was able to loft the ball into the box without their being much danger that any of his intended targets would be caught offside, while Pools were simply unable to come to terms with outstanding teenager Dajaune Brown.

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And while Phillips is unlikely to continue with the shape he set his side up in on Tuesday, the Pools boss explained that he made the switch in an attempt to stifle the hosts.

"We wanted to match them up," he said.

"Then it's over to the players and it's, can you be better than them?

"For the first five or 10 minutes we looked like that but we couldn't handle the way they play, with their movement and rotation.

"A lot of our deficiencies were exposed."