Hartlepool Utd’s Howard has the hardest job for Stevenage clash

Steve Howard is elbowed in the head against Walsall. Picture by FRANK REID
Steve Howard is elbowed in the head against Walsall. Picture by FRANK REID

JOHN Hughes admits that Steve Howard is being tasked with “the hardest job on the pitch” as he continues to deploy the veteran as a lone frontman.

The Pools chief is, over time, keen to roll out a system which will see Howard forge a partnership with the likes of Ryan Noble, Luke James or James Poole.

But Hughes says that the 36-year-old remains an integral part of his short-term thinking.

“Steve is the focal point in what we’re trying to do right now,” he told SportMail.

“He has the hardest job on the pitch with the system we’re playing.

“With the 4-3-3 he’s up there fighting with two big gorillas by himself.

“We need to get him as high up the pitch as possible to give us some length, everything else will happen around him and the wingers have to get around him and feed on things.

“I would love to play a partner up there and I would love to get more crosses in for him.

“But at this moment in time we’re working towards that and we’ll have to be patient.”

Howard has scored just once this term from 21 outings having been Neale Cooper’s marquee summer signing.

But Hughes says the sheer presence of the former Leicester City frontman on the team-sheet is a major bonus.

“Stevie has been there and done it throughout his career,” he went on.

“He’s a big player to have on your side.

“For the opposition to pick up the team-sheet and see his name is quite something.

“We have to work towards improving the supply to him and creating more chances, but for now he’s doing a very important job for us.

“He’s a good, old head to have around the place as well and characters such as him will be invaluable if we’re going to get out of this situation.”