Hartlepool United opposition watch - Middlesbrough
After opening their pre-season campaign with three convincing wins, Hartlepool United are set to face their first real friendly test in the form of Championship side Middlesbrough.
The match has come at an ideal time and will be a good indicator as to the level Pools are at. Their brushing aside of Northern League opposition, while impressive, hasn’t tested them.
Jonathan Woodgate’s Boro opened their pre-season in Austria last week as a young side were beaten 2-0 by third division champions Grazer AK.
They then returned to the north east to play National League North side Gateshead at the International Stadium.
A far more experienced Middlesbrough side featured as Jonny Howson, Ashley Fletcher and Marvin Johnson netted in an unconvincing 3-1 win on Tyneside.
For the best part of an hour, Boro were more than matched by their sixth tier counterparts with the score level at 1-1.
It wasn’t until the Heed started introducing several young trialists that the game got away from them.
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Following the match, Woodgate commented: “Gateshead played well, they dropped deep, they made it difficult for us, we got what we wanted out of the game and it was important we won the game as we want to start getting the winning mentality into the players and that starts from pre-season friendlies.
“They worked on different things we asked them for, we were good at winning the ball back higher up the pitch, we need to work on the passing in between their players, we need to be cleverer with our play but overall I thought it was decent.”
The four division gap between Boro and Gateshead is equal to that separating Pools and their opening three pre-season opponents, making the big wins from Craig Hignett’s side seem impressive in comparison.
Hartlepool have now been back three weeks and should be looking to kick-on going into their fourth friendly of the summer.
And facing a Middlesbrough side who still seem to be finding their feet will be a stern test, though there’s no reason why they shouldn't aim for another favourable result.
Tickets for the game at the Super 6 Stadium are available on the turnstiles at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions.