Hartlepool United’s SEVEN key protagonists in National League opening

Hartlepool United's Scott Loach.
Hartlepool United's Scott Loach.

Seven games in and Hartlepool United have lost just once.

Their start to the National League season, the second time around, has been a stark contrast to their beginnings in their maiden campaign at this level.

Pools coverage in association with Flybe. Flybe operates daily flights between Newcastle and Southampton, for more information visit www.flybe.com

Pools coverage in association with Flybe. Flybe operates daily flights between Newcastle and Southampton, for more information visit www.flybe.com

Under Craig Harrison Pools took six games to get off the mark this time last year, but this time around Matthew Bates’ men have not looked back.

Riding the crest of a three game winning streak, they’re looking to make it four on the bounce tomorrow when they head to the south coast to take on Havant and Waterlooville, newly promoted from the National League South.

So in Pools’ impressive start to the season - their best in almost a decade - which players have stood out?

Here we take a look at the SEVEN men who have stood above the rest in the opening exchanges of the fifth tier season - some obvious, others a little more of surprise.

SCOTT LOACH

He was the fans’ and the players’ player of the year last season and with good reason.

His saves won points and rescued results from the opening day to the last.

Loach was good last year, but he’s even better this time around.

It’s clear to see the work with Ross Turnbull, schooled for some time under Petr Cech, is paying dividends.

Commanded his box brilliantly over the Bank Holiday weekend.

CARL MAGNAY

Everyone was worried about Andrew Davies’ injury, but Magnay has stepped in to fill the gap admirably.

He was a colossus in the air last weekend, and his true leadership qualities came to the fore.

Looks as if he’s played in the centre all his life. An incredible transformation.

PETER KIOSO

How Pools have managed to nab this lad is beyond belief.

Quick, strong, brave and athletic, he is a striker’s nightmare. He’s got the lot.

In a long season we might even see him play in a more advanced role, such is his versatility. He was a stand out on the right, left and the centre in pre-season. And when the real ball has emerged, he’s gone from strength to strength.

RYAN DONALDSON

Few would have predicted Donaldson would have the impact he has this season, with many Poolies writing the player off before a ball was even kicked.

But, to his credit, he’s knuckled down, earned his place in the team, albeit out of position, and has steadily improved as the season has progressed.

A winger for much of his career, if he can get the defensive work right, might well end up as a wing-back of some repute at this level, because going forward he’s a threat.

Still feels like he has plenty more to give to this team.

LIAM NOBLE

Noble signed from Notts County, dropping down a division, and it was expected he would have a big impact in this side.

He has not disappointed.

His creativity has allowed others to thrive, his intelligence has opened the door for Pools.

Of all the players who were signed in the summer, he is probably the only one who is truly irreplaceable.

Reminds me very much of a non league Jonjo Shelvey type figure. Makes Pools tick.

If Bates’ men are to get promoted, you get the feeling Noble will play a massive part, on and off the field.

NIKO MUIR

His goals are quality and his all-round play even better.

Another player who you look at and wonder how he’s ended up at Pools.

There are few strikers like him at this level and he’s just what the doctor ordered for a side which, last season, never really looked like scoring against anyone.

I’ve no doubt he will continue to improve, as well, which can be no bad thing for Pools’ hopes this season.

We all need to pray he was signed on a TWO-year deal, not a one.

LUKE JAMES

We all knew what we would get from striker James but just because we were familiar with his talents does not make his achievements any less impressive.

Work rate is second to none in this side, and beyond.

Gives defenders a headache down the channels and in behind.

Bates said it last week - he’d have hated to play against James, even in his prime. Plenty of defenders, up and down the land, will be saying the same thing.