Caretaker Sam Collins believes Brad Walker is close to being back to his Hartlepool best

Sam Collins.
Sam Collins.

Brad Walker is close to being back to his best, according to Hartlepool United caretaker boss Sam Collins.

Collins watched on as recalled Walker, and fellow Pools second string star Rhys Oates, put in top class performances as the home side ran out 2-0 winners over Stevenage at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.

And Under-21 manager Collins, who will take a step back from first-team duties on Monday, with Dave Jones set to run the show, thinks Walker, in particular, proved the difference for Pools on the day.

Collins thinks the midfielder might even be close to reproducing the form that almost got him a move to Championship Wolverhampton Wanderers.

"Brad was very good," he said of the goalscorer.

"I’ve had a lot of time with him. On Sunday I knew then I was going to play him after I'd been told I was in charge for this game.

"He’s been with me the last six months and for six weeks he’s been the closest player he was to before."

Oates, who missed a penalty but created Walker's strike, also stood out for Collins.

He said: "Rhys has played up front for me in the Under-21s, so as soon as I knew I was taking charge for this game I knew I wanted him to start there.

"Billy was touch and go with injury, but Rhys has pace and was always a threat.

"He is raw, determined, quick and can go both sides with ball. He was good today and the gaffer and his staff were impressed."

While Collins was pleased with the young duo, he was confused by the fact Oates was allowed to take the first-half spot-kick, which he went on to miss.

"His penalty wasn’t great, but he was brave enough to take it," said Collins.

"I was shocked Brad let him take it, but someone has to take it and he missed. Luckily we scored straight afterwards, so the reaction was good."

Reflecting on the victory he continued: "It was a good day, the players did what we asked them to so I’m really pleased.

"We changed tactics, I did the press in the week and I said I have seen the team all season and had my own ideas.

"There was a few things with and without the ball I felt we could do better and I felt we did it today."