Hartlepool v Morecambe: Where today’s game will be won and lost

Jake Carroll in action for Hartlepool United against Chesterfield
Jake Carroll in action for Hartlepool United against Chesterfield

Finally, the new football season is upon us.

The new Premier League campaign seems to have come around quickly given it ended three weeks after the Football League did last season and a shorter than normal summer for the top tier clubs.

But Hartlepool United fans have been waiting since the start of May for the ‘proper’ football to get going again.

A packed pre-season programme of nine friendly matches resulted in a mixed bag of results for Ronnie Moore & Co but there were plenty of positive signs in the final friendly outing against Chesterfield.

Fitness wise, there won’t be many teams fitter than Pools.

Weeks of hard graft, a busy friendly programme and a week at Catterick Garrison has seen to that.

Morecambe is the first test of Moore’s new-look Pools side and central midfield will be the key battleground in the opening game of the 2015-16 season.

With Pools expected to line-up in a 3-5-2 formation, the midfield trio of Michael Woods, Carl Magnay and Nicky Featherstone will have to be on top of their game against a good footballing side in Morecambe.

Shrimps winger Kevin Ellison impressed in the two games played last season, with the 36-year-old more than capable of chipping in with the odd goal.

The more attack-minded Paul Mullin is also a key player for Morecambe, with manager Jim Bentley keen to see the pair chip in with their fair share of goals.

But in holding midfielder Magnay plus the more attack minded Woods and Featherstone, who has been given a more attacking role this season, then Pools should have enough to pick up their first three points of the season.

Defensively, Pools looked far more organised and resolute against Chesterfield after the defensive shambles of the Scunthorpe United and Gateshead defeats.

Keeping it tight at the back again will be key to Pools avoiding defeat on the opening day of the season.

I’m going for striker Rakish Bingham and Woods to score at The Vic, with Pools to win 2-1.

Pools (likely) (3-5-2): Bartlett, Duckworth, Harrison, Worley, Bates, Carroll, Featherstone, Woods, Magnay, Bingham, Paynter (C).

* Meanwhile, Pools have been drawn to play at home against Sheffield United in the first round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

The Blades knocked Pools out of the competition in Round Two last year.

First Round ties are due to be played in the week commencing 31st August.