Craig Hignett discusses Hartlepool United's shortcomings compared to Solihull Moors, Leyton Orient and Salford City
Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett won’t change his style of play to combat the physical demands of the National League - despite admitting his squad needs more power to compete with those at the top.
Pools were narrowly beaten 1-0 by a strong and robust Solihull Moors side on Saturday afternoon, with Hignett admitting it took a while for his side to adapt.
After changing their shape at half-time, Pools coped better with the threat after the interval, yet Hignett was reluctant to dismiss the issue.
“You can’t get to grips with it,” said Hignett after the game. “We were better because we changed shape and they had to do different things and we stopped them doing what they were doing in the first half.
“It took us 45 minutes to sort it out because it’s really difficult to stop, we tried a couple of things in the first half, but it didn’t have any effect.
“If you give people time and space to just put balls in the box it’s hard to stop, whether it’s a full-back you have to be close to them, we were sort of halfy half, no one was really close enough to put anyone under pressure.
“We tried to change it so there would be more people where the ball was and it worked second half because we got a foothold and once we did they tried to change it and couldn’t understand how we were doing it.”
But despite his side’s deficiencies, Hignett is reluctant to change his favoured approach and still believes Pools can fight promotion by ‘trying to play football’.
Solihull, managed by former Blackburn and Leicester goalkeeper Tim Flowers, have found success using a different formula this season, one which has taken them to within a point of top spot in the fifth tier.
“It was two different styles today,” said Hignett after the game. “I’m probably too much the other way at times for this league whereas Tim’s right at the opposite end of the spectrum, he knows this league.
“They’ve bought players to suit, you look at the front three, big powerful lads and you look at the midfield players, they’re solid and get about.
“I’m probably guilty of wanting to play too much football at times and wanting to play the right way whereas sometimes there’s a different way of playing, I’m not going to go that way but I’ve got to find a mix, a balance.”
The additions of Fraser Kerr and Nicke Kabamba have added some much-needed force and size to Pools’ squad yet, according to Hignett, it’s an area they’re still a little short.
“At the minute we’ve got some big lads, but our big lads can run and our big lads can touch and they can play,” added the Pools boss. “We need some more aggressive people that’s for sure.
“What we’ve got now I’m happy with but we’ll improve it, we’ll make it better, similar but better.
“You can get to a certain level with players, I’m not saying I’ve got to that level now with this group of players, but the performances they’ve been putting in have been really consistent and at a really good level.
“But we’ve lost the last two games where we probably should have got something out of both of them so that tells me we’re a little bit short, but I know where we’re short.”
With Hartlepool targeting a push for promotion next campaign, Hignett knows Pools will have to match teams like league leaders Salford City to escape the stranglehold of the fifth tier.
Yet the Ammies have also had to change their style of play this season, with a place in the Football League now in touching distance.
“I went to watch Salford against Harrogate,” said Hignett. “I don’t think there was anyone under 6,2, they just get it in (the box).
“They’re not going to run past you, they’re not going to play you with intricate football but they’re going to batter you and they’re going to run over you and be powerful and you have to stand up to that.
“That’s not the way I want to go but I can see why people do it, there’s no right or wrong way to get out of this league.
“Leyton Orient are different, they try and play football, they’ve got a really good mix Leyton Orient but you do need some power at times especially when you play teams like this.
“They might not be the most technically gifted but with effort and you see the size of them, they cause you massive problems.”