Hartlepool squad shaping up well ahead of National League campaign

Jack Munns
Jack Munns

So how are Hartlepool United shaping up?

You’d have to say things are looking promising but until the real thing starts it’s hard to second guess.

Craig Harrison appears to have ‘shopped’ well, bringing in eight new signings following a summer clear-out at Victoria Park.

SportMail takes a look at the make-up of the squad as pre-season grinds to a halt.

GOALKEEPER

Pools said a sad farewell to Trevor Carson, who was a reluctant departure last month.

The 29-year-old wanted to stay to help Pools get back into the Football League,but joined Motherwell to pursue his dream of playing for Northern Ireland.

But as one international departs, another has arrived to fill the void.

Scott Loach comes with a very impressive CV, namely Watford and Ipswich, plus a couple of England squad call-ups.

His career has stuttered along a little in recent years but comes to Pools looking to put in a full and successful season.

He’s had little to do thus far, but he pulled off a couple of good saves against Sunderland and looks a good physical unit.

Harrison has looked at two keepers on trial but this reporter’s hunch would be that his back-up keeper may be a youngster on loan.

For the last two seasons Pools had three pro goalies which is a luxury the club probably cannot afford.

DEFENCE

Harrison would tick me off for printing this, but the back four seems picked already with Carl Magnay and Blair Adams the full-backs outside Scott Harrison and Louis Laing.

The centre-backs look comfortable alongside each other, helped by the fact they played alongside each other as youngsters at Sunderland.

Magnay is back to full fitness, while Adams is a welcome arrival after Jake Carroll was never replaced after Pools gave him away to Cambridge.

Craig Harrison’s defensive issue is over the cover he’s got, or more pertinently, not got.

Right-backs are not in short supply with teenager Kenton Richardson and Liam Donnelly in reserve.

Donnelly can fill in at left-back if required, but there is no left-foot cover and if any mishaps strike Scott Harrison or Laing then that’s when the problems could start.

Matthew Bates is still registered as a player but would need a few weeks to get up to match fitness, so the manager would need to field Magnay or Donnelly there.

Harrison has two central defenders on trial – Canada U23 centre-half Kosovar Sadike and Stockton-born Swedish League defender James Risborough.

Risborough, as a left footer, could be a candidate for a contract, but both have the chance to impress this weekend.

With seven matches in August, the Pools boss is likely to want someone in for the start of the season.

MIDFIELD

Pools have midfielders coming out of their ears.

Summer signings Conor Newton and Luke George have come into an area already strongly populated.

Nicky Deverdics, Nicky Featherstone, Lewis Hawkins and Michael Woods have all been retained from last season and this looks an intriguing scenario.

Conditioning question marks could have a bearing here.

Newton is a known box-to-box man, but is playing catch-up in terms of match fitness, so too Featherstone who is on his way back from a summer hernia operation.

George has only played 75 minutes of the friendlies and while Pools believe they have established a cure to his injury problem, he may not be ready for a starting role.

His signing looked a key one as he is a player prepared to ‘put himself about’, a figure Pools have lacked.

Woods has performed well in the friendlies while Hawkins and Deverdics have also caught the eye.

Harrison has quite a quandary in midfield. One thing is for sure, he is unlikely to be adding anyone new to this department.

ATTACK

Having got shot of 18 goals in the close season in the shape of Lewis Alessandra and Nathan Thomas, Pools will be looking to their new men to support leading 2017-18 marksman, Padraig Amond.

Despite being keen on a move to the EFL, Amond has looked as focused and determined as ever, which is just as well as he appears the main striker Harrison will start the programme with.

However, Harrison has brought in Jake Cassidy, who looks a good acquisition. He carries an aerial presence and has a good pedigree, and has recent National League experience.

A hamstring injury has curtailed his time on the park though so he may need nursing through a hectic opening burst of matches.

Fellow new signings, Jack Munns and Ryan Donaldson are set to provide the closest support to the principal striker.

Munns, who has looked sprightly, favours the number 10-style role though has also been used in wide midfield.

So too has Donaldson who finished nicely against Sunderland, via a super ball from Munns.

Donaldson has done much of the deadball work thus far so he would seem to be a vital component.

Harrison has yet to see Devante Rodney, who has been troubled by a hip problem, so he is still to come into the equation, while teenager Liam Travers has been involved in pre-season and is up the manager’s sleeve.

The manager also has Junior Mondal on trial and the ex-Middlesbrough youngster would add a left-foot should Harrison offer him a contract.

OVERALL

It does look promising and this weekend’s friendlies, at home to Middlesbrough U23 on Friday, and away at Whitley Bay on Saturday, may give us further clues as to how Harrison will line up against Dover on August 5.