Hartlepool United analysis: Signing Sunderland midfielder permanently is a MUST for Craig Hignett
Signing Luke Molyneux on a permanent deal must be right at the top of Craig Hignett’s priorites over the next few weeks.
The problem the Hartlepool United manager might have to face up to, though, is that if the Sunderland loanee puts in many more performances like Saturday, he’ll be playing at a much higher level than Hartlepool and the National League in 2019/20.
Molyneux was the catalyst for Pools’ second comeback in a seven days.
While his introduction at Sutton United helped his team along to a 2-2 draw, Molyneux’s spark, creativity, ability to beat a man and clinical edge ensured Pools this time went one better, nabbing a 3-2 win from a 2-0 deficit.
It seems strange to think Hignett could not find a spot for the player from the off against Dover - imagine if the 20-year-old had been let loose from the first whistle!
Brought on a left wing-back, switched to the right-hand side after the break, his willingness to test defenders, constantly, with a slight of movement, dip of the shoulder or change of pace makes him a real asset at this level.
It’s highly unlikely he’ll be kept on at the Stadium of Light in the summer, with Molyneux nailed on to become a free agent.
And while Pools will be in the driving seat, with the player loving life at the Super 6 Stadium, it’s naive to think teams in the Football League will not be taking interest of the player’s performances. And it would equally naive to think a young player, 21 at the end of the month, would not wish to test himself at as high a level as possible.
Whether it be just for now, or longer term, it’s worth enjoying every minute of Molyneux at Pools, because the boy, when fit, is a very special talent.
Molyneux wasn’t the only plus point for Pools and Hignett.
Luke James again put in an impressive performance, Josh Hawkes chipped in with two cool, calm penalties to take his tally to seven for the season while Scott Loach further underlined his status as probably the best keeper outside the Football League with two point-saving saves late on.
A formation switch also brought positive signs moving forward.
Looking back over his first spell as permanent manager, Hignett favoured a 4-2-3-1. Listening to the manager speak now, it seems he would like to switch to the system sooner rather than later this time around, too.
Pools’ performance on Saturday was chalk and cheese, either side of half time - a lot of this was to do with the shift from 3-4-1-2 to 4-2-3-1.
This system suits the likes of Hawkes, James and Molyneux, all of whom are perfectly fitted to the three roles behind the striker.
The player it does not suit as much, though, is Nicke Kabamba, who can, at times, become a little less of a threat in the area because of the work he’s asked to do in the system, without out-and-out support alongside him.
The switch was a boost to Nicky Featherstone and Liam Noble, too.
I’m sure the duo would admit they were overran and out of sorts in the opening 45, but much more at home in the second period.
With their fifth tier status all but secured it’s time for Hignett to firm up plans for next season as soon as possible - Molynuex’s permanent contract has to be high on the agenda.