Richard Mennear analysis: Hartlepool looking so much better

Harry Worley scores with a towering header
Harry Worley scores with a towering header

A year ago, Hartlepool United ran out comfortable 9-0 winners over non-league Billingham Town to kick-start their pre-season.

And we all know how that season ended, with the club battling all season to retain their Football League status.

Early days, of course, but on paper there is a far better balance to the squad.

Fast forward 12-months and Pools again brushed aside their Northern League neighbours, last night putting seven past Town.

But the scoreline was the only similarity between Pools then and Pools now.

A year ago, Colin Cooper was in charge of a badly unbalanced squad, lacking goals, pace and leadership.

This time around, Ronnie Moore was sat in the dugout barking orders at his troops - fresh from their week-long bootcamp with the Army at Catterick Garrison.

And his squad of 22 included 10 new faces after an impressive summer recruitment campaign.

Early days, of course, but on paper there is a far better balance to the squad.

There is real strength in depth in every department, pace and goals in the forward line and leadership throughout the spine of the team.

Putting seven past Billingham Town and keeping a clean sheet is no cause for celebration.

It should be a given, but Moore was happy with his squad’s night work, including the impressive fitness levels on show.

Pools - who included three triallists - sprayed the ball around with aplomb and worked the Town defence into submission as the second-half wore on.

Moore named two different teams for each half, a show of the strength of the new-look Pools squad.

Pools started the match in a 3-5-2 formation, with the impressive Carl Magnay right wing-back and triallist Johnny Giles down the left.

Michael Duckworth, Worley and Stuart Parnaby - who has been training with the club since being released in the summer - made up the back three.

Paynter partnered Scott Fenwick up front, with ex-Mansfield Town and Yeovil Town midfielder Fergus Bell, 24, and Hull City youngster Leon Dawson the other two triallists in the starting line-up.

All three did well, Bell, in particular, standing out with his neat play and workrate.

Pools should have been out of sight in the opening 20 minutes but both Fenwick and Paynter were guilty of missing good chances.

Moore admitted afterwards the forwards hadn’t had much time for shooting practice yet, something which will be stepped up in the coming days.

It didn’t matter too much though as Pools soon took the lead.

Ex-Stevenage defender Worley with a towering header to nod Giles’s right-wing corner home from six-yards.

It was soon 2-0, Paynter with a penalty after being bundled over.

Further chances came and went before the half-time whistle and wholesale changes by Moore.

New signings Peter Denton, winger Kudus Oyenuga, Jake Carroll, Rakish Bingham and Rhys Oates were all given game time.

Town also changed keepers, with Chris Davison coming on at the break.

And he defied his very large frame in the opening minutes, acrobatically tipping over a delicate Oates effort to keep the score at 2-0.

It wasn’t long before the floodgates opened.

Energetic Oates was played through and hit a low attempt, saved well by Davison, but the ball deflected to Bingham who made it count from six-yards out.

Carroll was impressing down the left-flank with his raw pace, energy and drive.

And he soon got his moment of glory, finishing off the move of the match in the 69th minute.

Nicky Featherstone, Bingham and Lewis Hawkins were all involved in the build-up, the ball eventually falling to Carroll who picked his spot with aplomb.

Billingham-born Brad Walker, in front of family and friends, then scored a quick-fire double, slotting the ball home from close range before Bingham added his second to make it 7-0.

It was a rout and a comfortable workout for Moore’s squad. The Pools manager is too long in the tooth to read too much into the scoreline but he is pleased with the squad he has built over the busy summer months.

They will get another chance to stake their claim tonight when Pools head to Harrogate Railway (KO 7pm), with Moore set to give his squad 45 minutes each again.

Pools First Half (3-5-2): Carson, Magnay, Duckworth, Worley, Parnaby, Bell, Nelson-Addy, Dawson, Giles, Fenwick, Paynter.

Pools Second Half (4-4-2): Denton, Richards, Bates, Nearney, Oyenuga, Featherstone, Carroll, Hawkins, Walker, Bingham, Oates.

Goals: Worley (17), Paynter (33), Bingham (63, 87), Carroll (69), Walker (81, 84).

Billingham Town: Scotter (Davison, 45), Stephenson, McCarthy, Taylor, Hodgson, Doyle, Butterworth, Lambert, Bonner, Chapman, O’Sullivan.