Hartlepool’s magnificent SEVEN - the defensive base Matthew Bates has built Pools’ National League success on

Luke James.
Luke James.

TWELVE goals scored, EIGHT goals conceded.

Despite a positive start to the season in terms of results and drama, Hartlepool United’s games have not exactly been awash with goals.

Matthew Bates, a former defender, would not have it any other way, as long as three points continue to come at the end of it.

Pools’ success this season has been built on their solidity at the back. That base has seen them climb to fourth, within three points of the National League summit.

Here our man Liam Kennedy picks out the SEVEN key components in the well-oiled Pools defensive machine, who are driving the club towards the upper echelons of the fifth tier table.

CARL MAGNAY

When club captain Andrew Davies, who deserves an honourable mention in his absence from this list, was taken off with an ankle ligament injury against Ebbsfleet United, Pools’ world seemed to collapse.

They adapted poorly without their skipper in the centre of a back three and went on to lose their only game of the season so far.

At that stage, his loss looked a major concern. Since then, though, Pools have gone seven games unbeaten, winning five of those encounters. They’ve kept three clean sheets in their last four, conceding just once.

This is in no small part down to the performances of Magnay.

Last season I moved to question his leadership qualities, but this campaign, without the armband, he has proven me wrong.

When he’s bang up for it and bang on form there are few better, more tenacious defenders at this level.

RYAN DONALDSON

Not a defender until this season, he’s taken to the role like a duck to water.

Does his defensive work brilliantly and has prevented a number of goals with his clever positioning at set pieces and speed of reaction.

PETER KIOSO

Dunstable Town knew what they had on their books, MK Dons clearly did not.

Kioso looks like an absolute beast. He’s athletic, quick, strong in the challenge and just as good in the air.

He’s been the stand out of Pools’ signings this summer, apart from, of course, top-scorer and talisman Liam Noble.

Looks to be a player who could make it at a much higher level, provided he stays firm on his current trajectory.

MYLES ANDERSON

A player who does the simple things well.

Adds balance being left-footed and takes no chances when it comes to shifting the ball, if needed.

The defender has not played all that often in his career, for a player well into his mid-twenties. As a result, there’s a case to be made that room for improvement is there.

Bates is a big fan of the former Blackburn Rovers centre-half, both as a player on the field and a person off it.

SCOTT LOACH

If there is a better goalkeeper at this level then I am yet to see them.

Has been called upon sparingly this campaign, even less so in the last couple of weeks, but he is a player who always comes up with the goods when needed.

His shot stopping was never in question, his coming from crosses was last season.

Those fears are well and truly gone. And while he does need reminded to come for things from time to time from the bench, he’s a commanding presence this season, which has helped reduce the number of chances for the opposition.

NICKY FEATHERSTONE

Is in the best form of his Pools career.

A player who has divided opinion in his time at the Vic, but has become a key cog in the Pools midfield, allow Noble to do hit thing further forward.

LUKE JAMES

Defending from the front is a massive part of the modern game and James is the perfect exponent of that.

He works his socks off from the front, hassling defenders at will.

His runs in behind also constantly stretch the play, offering Pools an ‘out ball’ when under pressure but also giving the midfield the space to cause damage to the opposition.

While he may not have the goals he, his manager or the fans would have wanted so far this season, his style of play has, without doubt, helped prevent more sustained pressure at the other end.