Hartlepool United must remain on the front foot in National League quest - Matthew Bates

Matthew Bates.
Matthew Bates.

Matthew Bates has revealed he’s ordered his Hartlepool United players to impose themselves on their National League opponents.

Far too often last season Pools were passive in games, not showing the cutting edge to influence at one end as well as being too porous at the other.

Those days are gone, according to Bates.

The manager wants his players to remain on the front foot in the fifth tier, no matter the venue, no matter the opposition.

“We want to take the game to teams home and away,” Bates said, speaking ahead tomorrow’s visit of Ebbsfleet United.

“We want to impose our style on the opposition and make them change for us.

“We asked for a quick start on Tuesday to keep the fans onside and that’s what we got. We need that every game.”

Ebbsfleet have had an indifferent start to their fifth tier campaign - losing their opener against Chesterfield, before getting a draw against Leyton Orient.

Bates is not reading too much into their first two results, especially as they’ve played two sides who are more than likely to be in the promotion mix come May.

“We are looking forward to it,” said Bates.

“It is another home game where we hope there will be another great atmosphere.

“Ebbsfleet will be a test. They will be up there this season.”

On Tuesday night against Harrogate Town Pools came within a whisker of walking away with all three points.

A late, late leveller from the visitors robbed Bates & Co of their maiden win in the 2018/19 season, which looked all set after goals from Niko Muir and Jake Cassidy.

Bates was brave to throw all three frontmen - Muir, Cassidy and Luke James - into the same frontline. But he feels he has been rewarded with some positive performances from his attackers in opening two games.

“Our forward players were a threat all night in midweek,” said Bates.

“This is nothing new to us.

“Luke James didn’t get on the scoresheet but he was fantastic.

“That is nothing new to us at a Hartlepool, though.”

On Muir, he was full of glowing praise for a player who netted his first ever goal at this level, having stepped up from the Isthmian League.

“Everything he did was pure class,” said Bates.

“Not just in the attacking third but also in his defensive work.

“He held up play, the technical side of his game was first class.

“Niko was playing non-league, semi-professional football - he was going to work at 4am and playing football at the same time.

“For him to come from that to this atmosphere here at Pools, is massive.

“I was very pleased with him.”

It’s not just James and Muir who Bates has been impressed with.

The manager singled out Cassidy for particular praise, too.

His hard work up top, often by himself, is a key component of this Hartlepool team.

“Cass’ return last season wasn’t great but from the minute I took over he offered the team hard work,” said Bates.

“Even when he is not getting the goals and the headlines he works hard for the team.

“He’s been excellent for us in the first two games.

“With the system we always have three up there when we attack.

“From time to time you will see him up there on his own but we want as many players up the park as possible while remaining solid.”

While still to win over the masses, Ryan Donaldson has been one bright point for Pools.

Still with plenty to learn in a defensive sense, but with a lot to offer going forward, Bates says Donaldson is in on merit and had to work hard to knock youngster Kenton Richardson out of the Pools starting XI.

“Within the system we play, he can fit into a number of positions,” said Bates.

“I have spoken to Kenton and I have told him that Ryan is ahead of him on merit.

“Kenton had a great pre-season with us.

“He needs to work hard and get back in.

“He had a little knock on Tuesday and we hope he will be OK for the weekend.

“We want to have at least one of our wing backs as a more attacking option.

“Ryan gives us that.

“He can do the defensive work, too. And is learning every day.”