Analysis: Revived Billy Paynter shows there is much more to his game than just being a ‘target man’

Billy Paynter scored and made an assist on his home debut for Hartlepool United
Billy Paynter scored and made an assist on his home debut for Hartlepool United

What a difference a few months can make.

Billy Paynter had been made an outcast at his former club Carlisle United by manager Keith Curle.

Michael Woods in full flow against Morecambe

Michael Woods in full flow against Morecambe

Not involved with the first team, Paynter along with midfielder Gary Dicker became involved in a dispute over some of Curle’s demands that they did extra training, which led to the PFA being called in.

The situation left a bad taste and left the 31-year-old Scouser kicking his heels in the stands.

Ronnie Moore was his saviour.

The Pools boss made a move to sign the striker - the highest profile of his 10 summer signings - and on first impressions, it looks a shrewd piece of business.

Scott Fenwick takes on a Morecambe defender

Scott Fenwick takes on a Morecambe defender

Paynter has been revived since he arrived in the North East.

Clearly with a point to prove to Curle, Paynter has relished the role and responsibility of being the elder statesman at League Two Pools.

He was named captain by Moore and led the side out for the first time in a league game for the season opener with Morecambe at Victoria Park.

The stage was set and Paynter & Co didn’t disappoint.

After a big summer of change at Pools, with a new-look team on the pitch wearing their new strips in front of the new owners, a winning start was key.

And Paynter was instrumental in the 2-0 victory.

He nodded Pools in front in the 25th minute, arching his neck to connect to a flighted Rakish Bingham cross, before returning the favour in the second-half.

His sublime chip over The Shrimps backline put Bingham clear and his drilled effort left Barry Roche with no chance in the visitors goal.

Paynter, one of Moore’s key summer targets, wasn’t brought in for his Messi-esque creative skills, or even his goals.

He was brought in to be the target man, to hold up the ball, bring others into play and bully the opposition defence, while taking a few knocks along the way.

Last season the Pools frontline were unable to do any of that, which resulted in the ball coming straight back and no pressure being built.

Early days but the partnership of Paynter - who has shown he is more than just a target man - and Bingham looks promising.

They were helped by Scott Fenwick, Moore forced to go with an attacking 4-3-3 formation after injuries to Dan Jones, while Matthew Bates was struggling with a sore knee.

The switch worked well, with Pools on the attack from the off. It also showed the versatility Moore now has at his disposal.

The squad is lacking wingers and defensive cover centrally, but Moore at least has better options at his disposal than last year.

It wasn’t all plain sailing though against a good Morecambe side, managed by Jim Bentley.

The visitors enjoyed the better of the second half and carved out enough chances to score themselves.

Thanks to some good fortune and dogged and determined defending, Pools managed to keep their first clean sheet of the season as well as pick up their first three points.

Moore was expecting to go with his favoured 3-5-2 formation. But injuries forced his hand on a warm sunny day at Victoria Park.

Six of the 10 new signings started and Pools were bright. Their passing was crisp and inventive on the bowling green that is their home pitch.

It goes to show just how much the squad has changed when Michael Duckworth is the leading player when it comes to Pools appearances, Morecambe was his 77th.

And Duckworth forced a good block from Andy Parrish in the opening stages.

Ryan Edwards then powered a header off the Pools crossbar in the 15th minute, with Adam Bartlett beaten.

It was a wake up call and Pools went on to take a deserved lead through Paynter’s 100th league goal.

Michael Woods had seen his shot well saved, the ball fell to Bingham who flighted a cross to Paynter who nodded home.

Jamie Devitt should have equalised after beating the off-side trap - despite strong protests from the home side - but his poor attempt went sailing wide.

Fenwick then had claims for a penalty waved away by referee Darren England.

Morecambe continued to press after the re-start and Lee Molyneux should have made it 1-1 but he inexplicably side-footed wide from eight-yards when the goal was gaping.

As the game dragged on Pools were looking increasingly vulnerable, with the play far too open for Moore’s liking. The 4-3-3 system, for all its attacking merits, was leaving Pools exposed.

The next goal was going to be key and while Morecambe threatened, it was Pools that showed the killer instinct. The same three players were involved again, with Woods playing in Paynter on the edge of the area.

His movement created a pocket of space for Bingham to run into and Paynter executed the perfect lob to the ex-Mansfield striker, who drilled his shot low under the onrushing Roche.

Veteran Kevin Ellison hit the Pools crossbar late on before Bartlett - who impressed again - made a fine, low save to his left to deny Devitt. Fortunate, perhaps, to come away with a clean sheet.

But Pools are off and running after a very promising opening day performance.