Nathan Thomas
Nathan Thomas

Matthew Bates and his coaching colleagues face a huge task to keep Hartlepool United in the Football League.

Confidence, it has to be said, has soared at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium since the departure of boss Dave Jones.

But, Bates, club captain Billy Paynter, and backroom staff, Stuart Parnaby and Ian Gallagher, have a job on their hands to revive a side who have not won in seven games.

Here are four key areas facing the fab four in the must-win game at Cheltenham Town this Saturday.

Matthew Bates? To play or not to play?

It’s a tough poser for the 30-year-old.

As predicted in SportMail, Bates returned to the starting XI against Barnet.

It was what Pools needed after the debacle at Leyton Orient, the wise head of the ex-Boro defender in the back four.

However, this reporter thinks he should be a non-starter at Chertenham.

A little off the pace, to be expected after 13 games out, he probably should put his faith in the Scott Harrison-Brad Walker combo.

Also, it may be more prudent to be guiding his team from the sidelines without having to worry about playing his own game as well.

Would suggest he names himself on the bench, just in case Pools need him inside the ropes, so to speak.

Should Trevor Carson play?

Having just said no about Bates, SportMail says yes to Carson starting.

Now, we know the keeper, who 12 months ago was walking away with every player of the year award at the Vic, has not played in 2017.

In truth, he should not play again this season after shoulder surgery.

But the 29-year-old has rushed back ahead of schedule and is in full training.

It has to be stated that Joe Fryer has done nothing wrong. In fact, but for the on-loan Boro stopper, Pools could have losteven more embarrassingly against Orient and Barnet.

However, a six-pointer at Cheltenham is just the stage for Carson, who not only keeps the ball out of his net as well as young Joe, but will keep his defenders in front of him absolutely right.

Saturday is a day for leaders and Trev fits the bill.

Let Nathan Thomas loose.

One of the saddest sights of the Dave Jones error, sorry era, has been the decline of this once-gleaming machine.

A match-winner, whether scoring or setting them up, Thomas has looked a pale shadow of his former self.

Granted, a long injury absence has not helped, but his confidence has taken a battering.

He has been trying but whatever he’s tried has not come off and he’s spent almost as much time near his own box as the opposition’s.

Under Craig Hignett, the 22-year-old had the licence to thrill and he must be given that freedom at Whaddon Road.

Get Pools playing football again.

Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?

This reporter, and doubtless the fans, lost count how many times the ball was just hoofed forward aimlessly – and badly – against Barnet.

Perhaps it was anxiety, but time and again a player just wanted to ship the ball as fast and, seemingly as far, as possible.

While intricate one-touch passing would be impossible even for Real Madrid on the Whaddon Road surface, the boys in blue can’t just go long, they have not got the personnel up top to do it.

They can’t play a game which is alien to them. They have no shortage of footballers, or goals, Padraig Amond, Thomas and Lewis Alessandra have over 30 between them.

Pools must get the ball moving and get at a team nervously looking over their shoulders.