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Ex-Sunderland defender Louis Laing teams up at back with Liam Donnell at Hartlepool United

Louis Laing heads clear from Torquay's Jamie Reid. Picture by Gareth Williams/AHPIX
Louis Laing heads clear from Torquay's Jamie Reid. Picture by Gareth Williams/AHPIX

Craig Harrison might be close to settling on his perfect central defensive pairing – Louis Laing and Liam Donnelly.

The two Ls helped shore up a creaking Pools defence at Torquay at the weekend and look set to start this Saturday at Morecambe in the FA Cup first round tie.

It is a good combination and they proved that again and did really well

CRAIG HARRISON

Pools began at Plainmoor with Laing and Michael Ledger in partnership at the heart of the defence with Donnelly and right-back and Blair Adams on the left side of the back four.

However, Pools came under severe pressure from the vibrant Gulls, who could have been a few goals up but for a couple of Scott Loach saves, a tremendous Laing clearance and some wasteful home finishing.

Harrison, never a man afraid to make a change, did just that and switched Ledger to right-back and re-united Laing and Donnelly.

This reporter may not stake his mortgage on it, but it would be a shock should the combination not start at the Globe Arena in the first round of the cup.

They performed superbly, repelling the once dominant Gulls, with their help of their friends it must be added – the 2-0 away success was a true team effort.

But the two Ls look made for each other.

“Laingy is a big strong powerful guy while Liam has pace, a good spring, he’s very aggressive and a good footballer.

“It is a good combination and they proved that again [on Saturday] and did really well.”

The manager has used five central defensive units this season – Scott Harrison/Laing (8), Keith Watson/Ledger (4), Laing/Ledger (3), Watson/Harrison (2), Laing/Donnelly (2).

Laing may have had a sticky start in blue and white, but the giant Geordie has come into his own.

Not for the first time in recent games, the 24-year-old has stepped up to the mark.

“I was a defender, I know how the mind works, I know what goes on, I had sticky patches in my career.

“I think it’s a mental challenge.

“In an interview he was quite open with his answers, which is good, because I think you’d have had a problem if you had a deluded player.

“He knows, to his standards, he wasn’t great and he had to step up.”

Laing has done that, but the boss is now looking to add a bit of an “edge” to his summer signing.

“He’s got the stature, but I’d like him to have a bit more nastiness about him,” he said. “It’s not easy because he’s a nice guy, he’s the sort who’d apologise after smashing you!

“You can’t change a person’s character, but we’re trying to coax him into having a bit of an edge. We’re trying to get into him a bit more before matches.

“All players are different in their match preparations. Some sit quietly with their headphones on, some are like ‘just leave me alone’ and some need goading.

“Getting to know Louis he falls into the last category.

“He needs winding up to let him know he’s in for a battle.

“We as the staff try to do that, one day he might turn around and knock one of us out!

“On the flip side you must give credit to him, it shows thee is a strong mentality, it’s never easy coming back after a bad start, but he has and he’s been brilliant for us.”