Preston-Hartlepool United: Expect changes from Craig Hignett but team won’t be weakened

Pools hero Billy Paynter celebrates. Picture by FRANK REID
Pools hero Billy Paynter celebrates. Picture by FRANK REID

Watch out for Craig Hignett ringing the changes for tomorrow night’s EFL Cup match at Preston North End.

Not because he is not taking it seriously – far from it.

You can go to 16, 17, 18 players who are all capable of playing and the standard not dropping


Hignett says any alterations to his squad or system will reflect the depth and quality in his squad.

At least three of his bench in Saturday’s 1-1 League Two opener against Colchester would have expected to be starters – Matthew Bates, Nicky Deverdics and Michael Woods.

All had to watch from the dug-out, though Woods and Deverdics saw action, as did Josh Laurent, another who will be in contention for the first-round tie at Deepdale.

Hignett says changes are inevitable, not just tomorrow but on a week to week basis given the men he has up his sleeve.

“If you want to have a team capable of doing well then that’s what you’ve got to have and all the players have to understand it,” he said.

“I think they do, they all buy into what we are doing.

“They all know now that it’s not 11 or 12 players, you can go to 16, 17, 18 players who are all capable of playing and the standard not dropping.

“That’s a massive difference from last year, not just personnel but shape.

“I have a lot of good options. I’ll pick teams I think will win games.

“I think last season I played the same team for something like seven or eight games on the bounce.

“Not this season – we have a squad now, I will use them all, I’m confident in what I’ve got.”

Hignett admitted the XI he sent out at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium reflected his desire to get all his “attacking talent” on the park.

Before the match it looked as if four players were chasing three front berths, but the boss instead went 4-4-2.

Lewis Alessandra, Padraig Amond, Billy Paynter and Nathan Thomas all started.

Paynter took the central attacking role with Amond, with Thomas and Alessandra as the widemen in midfield.

“I had a bad time, wondering what and who to pick,” Hignett explained. “A lot of players have had really good pre-seasons and set their cases to play.

“My preferred way of playing [4-3-3] I couldn’t do because it would have meant leaving certain players out and I couldn’t do that.

“I thought about it for days and came up with a way I can get in all the ones I wanted.

“I’ve had to disappoint players who have been great in pre-season

“I had four different teams before Saturday and I could have played any of them.

“I like 4-3-3 best, we look better with the ball, but 4-4-2 allows me to get all my attacking players on the pitch

“I will chop and change as the season goes on.

“The lads can play 4-4-2, 4-3-3, we can play a diamond.

“I have real options on the bench, players will come on and the quality won’t drop at all.”