Hartlepool United's pre-season weekend at Morpeth Town and Blyth Spartans analysed: How is Dave Challinor's side shaping up ahead of the 2020-21 National League season?

After waiting six months to be back in a stadium playing a football match, two came along at once for Hartlepool United.

Sunday, 13th September 2020, 1:37 pm
Updated Sunday, 13th September 2020, 1:37 pm
Claudio Ofosu got on the scoresheet at Morpeth Town (photo: Alex Chandy)

A 5-1 win at Morpeth Town on Friday night was promptly followed up by a 2-2 draw against Blyth Spartans on Saturday.

It the first chance to see the six new signings, as well as the returning Gary Liddle, Timi Odusina, Mark Shelton and Rhys Oates, in action.

Claudio Ofosu, Mason Bloomfield, Shelton, David Ferguson and Ryan Donaldson were on the scoresheet at Craik Park on Friday with former Poolie Liam Noble grabbing a consolation for The Highwaymen.

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Ferguson was on the scoresheet again at Blyth with another new recruit, David Parkhouse, scoring on his non-competitive debut.

Connor Thomson, who played for Pools on trial in the 1-1 draw against Newcastle United under-23s last month, netted a brace for Blyth.

Four trialists were on show over the two matches with manager Dave Challinor keen to bolster his defensive line.

All 18 of Pools contracted players got at least 90-minutes under their belt over the two games as they provided plenty of food for thought.

An unfamiliar side started the Morpeth match at Craik Park with Gavan Holohan and Ben Killip the only regulars from the 2019-20 campaign to be named in the XI.

Trialists

Four trialists, Daniel Boateng, Edwin Mensah, Jordan Mustoe and Scott McLean all started.

Boateng started the match at right-back before being moved into a midfield position. The former Arsenal academy player was substituted at half-time following a lacklustre display and didn’t feature at Blyth.

Mensah got 90-minutes under his belt at centre-back over the two matches. He was a regular for Merstham in the Isthmian Premier Division last season.

McLean featured predominantly as a right-back during the two matches, the 23-year-old played for Annan Athletic in Scottish League Two last season and was announced to have signed for Scottish non-league side Darvel last month.

Left-back Mustoe hasn’t played in England since 2014, when he made four league appearances for Accrington Stanley. Since then, the 29-year-old has played top-flight football in Belgium, Finland, Romania and Oman.

After playing 60-minutes at Morpeth, Mustoe lasted around 10-minutes at Blyth before being withdrawn as an injury precaution.

None of the trialists particularly stood out though McLean was the pick of the bunch having come close to finding the net at Blyth.

Mustoe and Mensah may also remain with the squad this week though it’s unlikely Boateng will return following his Saturday no-show.

Solid start at Morpeth

A few hundred fans were in attendance at Craik Park including 50 Poolies, who got to watch their side play for the first time since March.

As expected, Pools were slightly disjointed given the unfamiliar line-up at Morpeth as the game unfolded into a typical early pre-season affair.

Ofosu pounced on a mistake at the back to give the visitors an early lead in what was a fairly even first half. The winger looks like he could be a really exciting player for Pools with his pace, trickery and tenacity.

Bloomfield then doubled the advantage to turn in Rhys Oates’ low cross before the wholesale changes saw a more familiar side take to the field.

The midfield of Shelton and Nicky Featherstone that ended last season so strongly, quickly imposed themselves on the game as Shelton headed in a third from a pinpoint Donaldson cross.

Noble then quickly pulled a goal back before 17-year-old Joe Grey missed a golden opportunity to grab his first goal for the club from close range.

Luke Williams returned to the field for the first time in 2020, playing the final 30-minutes as he continues his bid to earn a new deal amid fitness concerns.

And as full-time approached, Ferguson and a screamer from Donaldson added some gloss to the scoreline.

The 5-1 result flattered Pools against a Morpeth side who provided a good run out.

Reality check at Blyth

Less than 24-hours later, Pools were back in action at Blyth.

The side that ended the game at Morpeth – with the exception of Ben Killip and Williams who were replaced by Brad Young and new loan signing David Parkhouse – started the match at Croft Park.

Bloomfield watched on from the stands after taking a knock at Morpeth, meaning Grey would have to play the full 90.

The teenage forward would prove to be a real bright spark during the match with some clever touches and confident forward play. Whether Pools choose to keep him amongst the first team or loan him out, he looks a real prospect.

After going behind early on, a cross-shot from Ferguson sailed straight in to level the score. Safe to say the new left-back didn’t mean it as he grabbed his second goal of an impressive weekend outing.

Parkhouse then put the visitors in front on the stroke of half-time as he turned in Grey’s low ball.

Blyth got back level from the penalty spot after a last-man challenge from Donaldson. Had the match been competitive, the Pools skipper would have seen red.

Following the 60-minute substitutions, Oates squandered an opportunity to secure victory for Pools from the penalty spot. His effort well saved by Brendan Pearson.

Despite Pools dominating possession, the match ended 2-2.

It proved an unfortunate reminder of some of the worst things about Pools last season – a side who could dominate games but would ultimately be let down by defensive lapses.

Fortunately, there's still plenty of time to put things right before the National League kick-off on October 3.

And Challinor’s side will get the opportunity to do just that against Spartans back at Victoria Park next Saturday.

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