4-4-2 or 3-5-2? Matthew Bates drops Hartlepool United formation hint

Hartlepool United boss Matthew Bates has dropped a hint he will stick with his 4-4-2 system switch.

The manager was playing his cards close to his chest when asked whether the formation which served his team so well in their FA Cup draw at Gillingham would be rolled out again for the visit of Barnet this Sunday.

But he did let slip that only two of his three available central defenders would start.

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Could that mean he sticks rather than twists?

Bates said: "We have two centre-halves out but we have Peter (Kioso), Myles (Anderson) and James (Butler) to play.

Hartlepool United boss Matthew Bates.

Hartlepool United boss Matthew Bates.

"Two of those three will play on Sunday.

"If you play well you keep the shirt - no matter the reputation.

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"So if the lads who play do well even the mainstays who come back next week might not get straight back in the side.

"It is a real opportunity for these players."

Last weekend Bates went with Carl Magnay and Myles Anderson in the centre, with both men putting in a stellar show to deny their League One opponents.

It was a change from his usual three at the back, which until last weekend, Pools had played every game this season.

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Bates will have to mix things up this weekend, though, with Magnay out due to suspension.

Although, he has Kioso ready to return, after he sat out the 0-0 draw at Priestfield.

Bates thinks it is a real positive that Pools now have two formations at their disposal, with the manager hinting he may keep opposition coaches guessing by switching between three and four at the back from game-to-game.

"It worked really well. We frustrated them and made them work hard. It is another string to our bow," said Bates.

"It is good to be able to swap and change between the formations.

"From now teams will not know how we will set up from game-to-game, which can only be a good thing."