‘Hopefully there’s more to come’ – Dave Challinor delighted with Mark Cullen brace on full Hartlepool United league debut
Mark Cullen certainly made the most of his opportunity on his first league start for Hartlepool United at Bradford City on Tuesday night.
Less than a minute into his full league debut, the striker found the back of the net at Valley Parade to help Pools on their way to a first away win of the season.
Cullen then grabbed his and Pools’ second on the hour mark as he nodded in from Jamie Sterry’s deflected cross. The 29-year-old was taken off shortly afterwards as Pools went on to secure an impressive 3-1 win following a late own goal from Yann Songo’o.
And given Hartlepool’s issues up front this season, manager Dave Challinor was pleased to see Cullen get off the mark after a difficult start to life at the club.
“I'm delighted for Culls,” he said. “He's been a little bit off it and had to be patient. By his own admission, he missed pre-season which was difficult for us in general because we had players at lots of different levels.
"He hasn't really caught up after that but we think he can score goals and the goals he scored are the type of goals we need.
"Any striker looking to score 10 plus goals a season needs to be scoring those type of goals in the six-yard box which look simple but are only simple if you put yourself in the right place at the right time.
"With the delivery we've got in wide areas, if you've got someone who can toe poke it in, that's massive and we've scored three goals here which is the first time we've scored away from home since the first away game at Barrow.
"It will do him the world of good and hopefully there's more to come from him.”
After registering just one shot on goal at Salford City on Saturday, Challinor was encouraged to see his side respond with three goals all coming in and around the six yard box.
“We've scored three goals in the areas where we've spoken about needing to score goals,” he added.
"We've done a little bit of analysis around ourselves from Saturday and in the Premier League games looking at where goals are scored. 80-plus percent of goals are scored in the areas where we scored our goals and thankfully we've scored three and they've only scored one.
"If you put the ball in there with good quality as we have, you're asking teams to defend and whether it's bad defending from them, I look at it as good play.”
Although Cullen’s two goal haul on Tuesday makes him appear to be the solution to Pools’ issues up front, Challinor believes patience is still required with the number 9.
“We still need to build him up but we know what we're going to get from him,” he continued.
“Our forward players are made to play in a two and sometimes that's not the system that we feel will give us the most joy.
"We've got to keep building on his minutes and the goal will undoubtedly do him a lot of good.
"As a striker, to have two goals against your name, it gives you that extra bit of belief and sharpness.”