What we learned from Hartlepool United's 4-0 friendly win over Carlisle United
Nicke Kabamba hit a first-half hat-trick as Hartlepool United saw off League Two side Carlisle United 4-0 at Victoria Park in a behind closed doors friendly.
A pleasant Tuesday afternoon at The Vic saw a fairly strong Pools side line-up against a Carlisle side featuring a mix of first team fringe players and youth team starlets.
The hosts came out of the blocks well as Kabamba reacted quickest to poke home a parry from Carlisle ‘keeper Louis Gray inside the opening seven minutes.
Less than five minutes later, Kabamba grabbed his and Pools’ second as he peeled off his marker and nodded home Josh Hawkes’ cross from the left.
And with half-time approaching, the Pools number 9 sealed his hat-trick as he displayed some smart footwork inside the penalty area before finishing coolly into the corner of the goal.
Being 3-0 up at half-time, Pools saw their second half chances limited until the closing stages as Hawkes fed the ball out Gavan Holohan who charged down the right flank before taking a touch and rolling the ball into the bottom left corner. A slightly more low-key version of Peter Kioso’s winner at Torquay United just over a week ago.
Carlisle rarely threatened though should have capitalised on a defensive mix-up at the back for Pools but Middlesbrough loanee goalkeeper Zach Hemming reacted quickly to collect the ball and quell the danger late on.
Hemming was one of four Hartlepool players that featured who are yet to make their competitive first team debut this season – the others being Brook Miller, Coleby Shepherd and his second half replacement Harrison Webster.
All four gave a good account of themselves. Number two goalkeeper Hemming dealt with what little came his way fairly comfortably with three straightforward saves over the afternoon.
Brook Miller played on the right side of a back three as Pools lined-up with the 3-5-2 formation that has proven to be a success in recent weeks. The 18-year-old defender looked solid at the back throughout the 90-minutes but was sometimes a bit guilty of being rash in possession.
Shepherd and Webster both had a half on the left flank with neither putting a foot wrong with Shepherd being the livelier of the two as Pools controlled the first half.
The game will have proven to be a good learning experience for those players as they got involved in a first team match at Victoria Park.
Such a convincing win against a side in the division one is bound to raise questions regarding the strength of the opposing line-up.
Three of the Cumbrians’ staring 11 featured during Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at home to Exeter. Canice Carroll was the sole starter while Ryan Loft and Newcastle United loanee Elias Sorensen were introduced from the bench at Brunton Park.
The rest of the Carlisle side was filled with fringe players and five members from their academy side.
In comparison, Pools had several first team players involved alongside the aforementioned youngsters who featured. Having said that, no one who played in the match has started in the last two first team games with only Nicky Featherstone and Gavan Holohan playing any part in Saturday night’s draw against Woking as late substitutes.
If anything, the match signified the strength in depth of Craig Hignett’s squad. They were able to brush aside a Carlisle team who, despite being significantly understrength, included four players who have started matches in League Two this season.
While Carlisle looked lacklustre and frustrated, Pools were sharp with several players clearly pushing to get back into the starting line-up.
Kabamba’s first half hat-trick obviously did him no harm whatsoever. But someone like Holohan in an unfavoured right wing-back position really stood out.
The Irishman was lively at both ends of the pitch and took his goal very well after coming close with an impressive solo run in the first half.
Defenders Romoney Crichlow-Noble and Kenton Richardson featured for the first time in a Pools shirt since the opening week of the season.
Crichlow-Noble was deployed on the left side of a back three with Richardson in the middle. There was some understandable rustiness given their respective spells out of the team but on the whole they looked comfortable in the heart of defence as they kept a physical Carlisle frontline at bay throughout the 90-minutes.
Pools’ midfield three of Nicky Featherstone, Adam Bale and Josh Hawkes kept the ball moving nicely as well. Featherstone has featured the most of the trio which was telling as he always looked to get on the ball and make things happen.
Bale was typically busy and showed some energetic work to win back and retain possession for the home side.
Hawkes was the most advanced of the three and was frustrating at times as he looks to regain some match sharpness after missing the opening weeks of the season. Having said that, he remained an attacking threat and two great balls led to Hartlepool goals so was pretty effective in terms of end product.
Luke James was lively alongside Kabamba but didn’t see too many chances come his way with the same going for substitute Niko Muir, who made his comeback from a hamstring injury.
Overall, it was a very productive outing for Pools which no doubt left Hignett with a few more nice selection headaches going into Saturday’s trip to Dagenham & Redbridge.