Organisation, confidence & thriving youth - FIVE key improvements made under Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett

Nicke Kabamba has been a revelation for Pools, scoring five in five since arriving from Havant.
Nicke Kabamba has been a revelation for Pools, scoring five in five since arriving from Havant.

Four games unbeaten, edging closer and closer to the National League play-off places - even if a promotion charge looks a little like a pipe dream at present.

The progress Hartlepool United have made under Craig Hignett has been stark.

The campaign looked dead in the water a few short weeks back under Richard Money but Pools' fortunes have been transformed in recent times.

Here our writer Liam Kennedy takes a look at the FIVE key improvements made under Hignett, in his second spell in the Super 6 Stadium dugout.

CONFIDENCE

What is clear is that Hartlepool are now enjoying their football.

This was not the case under Money, nor was it the case at the back end of the Matthew Bates rein - results not the manager was the issue with Bates, while the list of problems players had with Money was endless.

Hignett has come in, binned the headmaster approach, put some arms around shoulders. It's worked.

He trusts his players and they clearly trust him judging by their performances on the park.

ORGANISATION

Hignett has learned from his first spell at Pools.

He's a better manager for his time away from the dugout.

While he admitted changing for the sake of it when things went pear-shaped at the end of his first spell, he's vowed to do no such thing this time around.

Pools' players have a clear purpose, direction, style of play and know their roles.

I'm told the less is more approach, particularly when it comes to defending, is paying dividends at Peterlee.

DEFENSIVE ERRORS DISAPPEAR - FOR NOW

One of the only things Money said during his time that made perfect sense was the phrase "I don't have a magic wand".

He didn't, and that was evident from day one. Whatever his impact, neither does Hignett.

He still has the same group of players and from time to time they will make individual errors. That is football.

But it's fair to say those mistakes, costing points week-in, week-out for 18 months, have gone.

Instilling some confidence, and trust in those wearing the shirt is a big factor.

THRIVING YOUTH

Young players NOT getting much of a chance has been one of the more frustrating things about this campaign for Pools.

Having finished the season as one of the break through players in North East football, Josh Hawkes found himself cast aside under Bates and Money. Now, there's no doubt the managers will have had their reasons. But you can only keep a good player down for so long and Hawkes is now showing everyone why, for me, he's one of the most exciting talents outside the Football League.

Peter Kioso is another brought back into the fold having been forgotten about and misjudged by Money. He thought the central defender was a winger or a striker.

Aaron Cunningham and Danny Amos are two more who have formed part of a youthful backline who have kept two clean sheets on the bounce, in the space of four days, with 1000 miles of travelling under their belts.

GOALS

Whether Money or Hignett can take the credit for adding Nicke Kabamba to the Pools ranks is up for debate.

What is not up for debate is that he was one of the missing pieces in a jigsaw that looked impossible to complete at the turn of the year.

Kabamba as a focal point has not only added goals and height, he's also allowed Luke James, Hawkes, Liam Noble and Luke Molyneux to thrive around him.