Hartlepool United analysis: Craig Hignett's defensive lottery ticket is null and void for Wrexham visit
Craig Hignett has finally stumbled across a defensive combination that works - unfortunately, though, he’ll have to go back to the drawing board.
The manager has turned Pools from, at times, a National League bore-fest, to one of the brightest, sharpest most attack-minded sides in the fifth tier.
That has come at a cost, though.
Defensively, Pools’ major strength under Matthew Bates (I’m not sure they had a strength under Richard Money), things have slipped massively under Hignett.
But, after trying a three, then a four and any number of personnel in the backline, and those protecting it in front, Hignett has finally hit the jackpot - the biggest disappointment is the winning lottery ticket is null and void against Wrexham, who travel to the Super 6 Stadium on Saturday.
Peter Kioso, David Edgar, Fraser Kerr and Myles Anderson were absolutely top notch as a back four against Barnet, as Pools deservedly won another valuable away day point on Saturday.
As a unit, they may not, on the face of it, look the most mobile, but what they may lack in that area, they certainly more than make up for in others.
Kioso, as we all know, is the athlete of the backline.
He bombed up and down the line, giving Pools another line of attack with the ball, and a turn of pace and bravery without it.
Inside Kioso is the first of the new boys, Kerr.
He’s a proper defender who wins everything that comes his way, either in the air or on the deck. He’s also calm with the ball at his feet and has really added a flash of quality since signing from North East rivals Gateshead.
On the other side Myles Anderson had one of his best games in blue and white at the weekend.
He has no pace, is not a left-back and can, from time to time, get caught out with players running in behind or committing too early when squared up out wide.
But if you can find a defender with the will, strength and commitment of Anderson anywhere else in this division I’d be shocked.
For every little error he more than makes up for with goal-saving challenges and full-blooded intimidation of whoever gets in his way. He also has also developed the handy knack of being in the right place, at the right time, when it comes to danger - no bad thing for a defender at any level.
Another who sniffs danger, only a lot earlier is centre half Edgar.
You can tell he’s played at a much higher level, because at times he’s cruising through the game.
His experience shone through on Saturday, and it’s clear to see he’s reading the game much better now his match sharpness is getting up towards scratch. The former Newcastle United and Burnley defender will be frighteningly good when he’s fully fit and firing on all cylinders.
And this, for Hignett and Pools, is where the problem lies.
Edgar is so good, he’s still an international, despite dropping down to non-league football.
On Sunday he headed out to Canada for a week, meaning he will miss the visit of Wrexham - just when Hignett and Pools look to have found a combination, in a defensive sense at least, that works.
The pain will, of course, only be short-term, with Edgar set to return against Eastleigh on March 30. If he carries on playing like Saturday, there’s little doubt he’ll be a Pools player next season.