Hartlepool United's opening three pre-season matches assessed ahead of Middlesbrough friendly
With three wins from three, 17 goals scored and none conceded, Hartlepool United are enjoying one of their strongest starts to pre-season in years.
Opening with a 4-0 win at Billingham Town before beating Shildon and Newton Aycliffe 6-0 and 7-0 respectively – Pools have had 10 different players get on the scoresheet in what has been a breathtaking start from Craig Hignett’s side.
More often than not, teams will feel their way into pre-season with fitness being the prime focus.
Starting pre-season against three Northern League sides is always a good opportunity to do that as naturally the result follows.
But Hartlepool have looked incredibly sharp from the start and have subsequently swept aside all three of their opponents in a more convincing manner than most would have expected.
The persistent level of intensity maintained by Pools even when leading by four or more goals has been particularly encouraging as they develop an early level of consistency and understanding.
Friendly matches against semi-pro or amateur opposition are a double edged sword. Winning by several goals is almost the expectation while a low scoring victory is almost cause for concern – a draw or defeat is a disaster.
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Ultimately, these big wins will soon be forgotten should Pools fail to get their competitive season off to a flyer.
Taking pre-season with a huge pinch of salt is essential in managing expectations as we won’t truly be able to judge this Hartlepool team until the season gets underway.
But there’s no reason why Poolies shouldn’t be feeling positive, Hignett has assembled a strong squad of players who look good to go and will have to fight for their place in the side.
Capturing Luke Molyneux could prove to be one of the best signings in the National League this summer given his early form. Trialist Jason Kennedy has also starred and looks set to remain involved despite no formal decision being made on his future.
Sunday’s game against Middlesbrough (1pm kick-off) should be Pools’ biggest friendly test and a good barometer for where they’re at the halfway stage in pre-season.
The Championship side travel to the Super 6 Stadium fresh from a 3-1 win at Gateshead on Wednesday.