Another week, another fresh challenge for Hartlepool United.
And this time it’s not Craig Harrison who must sort Pools’ latest mess out. That honour has been passed on to Matthew Bates, much like it was at the back end of last season.
But what is on the agenda ahead of the visit of Ebbsfleet United to Victoria Park tomorrow? Here, our writer Liam Kennedy takes a look at FIVE problems Bates might look to address.
Get a performance out of Louis Laing and Scott Harrison
On Tuesday night at the Shay, Laing and Harrison looked at sixes and sevens.
The duo had to deal with a barrage of high balls, pace and physicality. On the evening, they were not up to it. All too often this season, whatever central defensive partnership has been pieced together by the departed Harrison has failed to produce consistent performances.
Hartlepool United and defensive errors have walked hand-in-hand in the National League. If they want to stay in the division, this all has to come to a stop.
As a former central defender of some repute, Bates must use his knowledge and expertise to get a tune out of these two.
Find a way to get Luke George in the side
Two games in just a few days proved a bridge too far for George in midweek, but, with seven days’ rest, hopefully the former Chester man will be fresh and available for Bates.
Watching him against Woking last week, it was easy to see why Pools have missed him so much.
Playing out of position at right-back, George was like the glue that held Pools’ creaky backline together.
His orders were audible, his constant barking a clear change from recent weeks.
And, as a result, Pools looked solid – it was only when he left the pitch that the cracks started to show and the Surrey outfit worked their way back into proceedings.
Without George, even with club captain Carl Magnay back in his place, things did not feel quite right.
Whether it is on the right-hand side of a back four, in midfield or even in goal, Pools need players of George’s character in their starting XI.
When the chips are down, he’s the type of player who will roll his sleeves up and settle in for battle.
A slot in the midfield, possibly for Nicky Featherstone, could be in the offing.
Make sure Jake Cassidy is not isolated
When Hartlepool are playing well, it tends to coincide with striker Cassidy being right on song.
When Pools are at their worst, it’s no shock to see Cassidy look like a lost boy in the final third.
It is all down to the support the frontman receives.
Bates must make sure that Devante Rodney and Rhys Oates, or whoever else he trusts up top, get as close to Cassidy as possible.
The striker is not the most mobile, but there are few at this level who can hold a ball up as well as him, or bring others into play with such ease.
He’s got the class to keep Pools in this division, but he can’t do it alone. Pools must provide him with help. Bates must find a method of making sure that happens.
Bin the reluctance to throw the kids in
One of Harrison’s faults, from the outside looking in, was not giving youth a chance.
Even when his team were 3-0 up against Woking last week, he refused to throw any of his untried kids in to the mix.
What was there to lose?
At the end of the day, we do not see what goes on at the club’s training base. It might be that none of those trusted with spots on the bench are anywhere near ready for men’s football.
But there have been times of late where many have wondered if the kids could do any worse than a number of their infinitely more experienced seniors.
Bates could do little wrong in the fans’ eyes if he tried a few of these youth players.
Bring the belief back
Roll the clock back to this time last year.
Things could not get any lower under Dave Jones and when Bates, flanked by the likes of striker Billy Paynter, were handed control it was like chalk and cheese.
Attitudes changed, performances improved, the mood lifted. And now, while things are not as far gone as that this time around – Harrison was popular with the squad to a large extent – there are similar challenges.
Bates needs to squeeze all he can out of a depleted squad. Getting, or keeping, them onside is a huge part in that.