Hartlepool United are “blessed” with some magnificent central defenders.
That was the message today from keeper Adam Bartlett ahead of the League Two match at Exeter City.
Bartlett played behind Toto Nsiala and Matthew Bates on Tuesday night at Deepdale, where Pools went so close to cup glory.
Bates made his first start of the season against Preston, with the pairing outstanding against the Sky Bet Championship side.
However, the combination of Nsiala and Rob Jones were equally effective against Colchester last Saturday, with the veteran given a breather at North End.
Pools were just seconds away from taking the EFL Cup first round tie with Preston North End into extra-time when the ball fell nicely in the away box fir Eoin Doyle to finally pierce the defence and beat Bartlett.
The keeper, standing in for the rested Trevor Carson, made some tremendous saves, while in front of him both Bates and Nsiala tried to limit his action by making a number of amazing blocks.
In fact, in terms of saves made by both keepers, the statistics were very similar, but Bartlett pointed out the immense work carried out by the central defenders.
“The lads were different class,” said the 30-year-old.
“If I read the stats right, Preston had 22 or 23 attempts at goal but there were 11 blocks in there.
“I think only two or three got through on target so you can see how much the lads, not just Toto and Batesy, put their bodies on the line.
“The way they played was fantastic.
“Then you have big Rob Jones.
“Rob is a real dominant force and he’s a great man to have around the changing room given the experience he has.
“He is a leader.
“There is no doubt we are blessed at the moment, whichever pairing the gaffer goes with we have some great players at the back.”
Boss Craig Hignett has a tricky choice to make today against the Grecians.#
However he has been at pains to point out that Pools now have a deep squad which can cope with changes or, indeed, rotation.
Pools have a further four games in August, Crewe (a), Notts Co (h), Newport (h) and Rochdale (a) so with the fixtures coming thick and fast, Hignett may decide to keep rotating his defenders.