Hartlepool United analysis: Midfield duo show 'Football League quality' in Pools' Wrexham victory
Hartlepool United have absolutely nothing but pride to play for this season,. Wrexham, on the other hand, are just one point off the top of the table, with promotion back to the Football League very much on the agenda.
If you didn’t look at the National League table prior to kick off at the Super 6 Stadium, and had no prior knowledge of the season, you certainly would not have come to that conclusion watching this one.
Pools were head and shoulders above their opponents, cruising to a one-goal win, which could, and should, have been much more convincing.
The club has been transformed off the park by the cash and vision of Raj Singh and Jeff Stelling helped by then director of football Craig Hignett.
Hignett is now moulding things on the park - and from the lows of the turn of the New Year, a promotion push now looks a realistic prospect.
Hignett deserves a hell of a lot of credit for the transformation in his 10-game permanent tenure.
Pools have lost just twice since he came back to the club in a full-time managerial capacity. They are now playing with a freedom not seen around these parts for quite some time. From scoring no goals to creating and scoring goals galore, from a shaky backline to a new-look, rejuvenated defensive unit.
His players are full of confidence - none more so than Nicky Featherstone and Josh Hawkes. Both were instrumental in this win over one of the better sides in the division.
Featherstone strolled through this one never getting out of first gear.
The better the opposition, the better the midfielder seems to perform.
There is a train of thought from within the club that Featherstone could slot into any side Hartlepool have ever had - even in their halcyon days in League One - and look every bit at home as he does in this one, such is his quality.
While he divides opinion in many quarters, on this show it’s easy to see why he is rated so highly by those behind the scenes and manager Hignett.
Hawkes is a player of considerable talent.
When supposed experts talk about the biggest prospects in the division they never seem to mention Hawkes - ignorance at its finest.
At 19 he’s head and shoulders above most at the same age in the region, including those at the ‘big three’.
Pools will take up their option of another year for the No 10, but it would be a massive surprise if they also don’t get a cash bid in the summer. He’s be worth every penny any prospective buyer would be willing to play.
Hawkes is maturing with every game and looks the part playing in the advanced midfield role. His ability to find space is paralleled by few at this level. I’d doubt many the level above could match him in terms of his clever movement.
That’s without even mentioning his goals - his fortuitous 24th minute penalty was his ninth of the season in only his 26th game - some of which have come off the bench.