John Askey outlines Hartlepool United's tactical difficulties and the setbacks which led to Ebbsfleet United change
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Having had a fortnight to both stir over Hartlepool’s recent slump in form and analyse how to put things right ahead of the visit of last season’s National League South winners Ebbsfleet, Askey, in the end, would make four changes to his starting XI from the defeat to Rochdale at the end of last month along with a change in system from the off.
Askey has been pretty consistent in his set-up since arriving at the Suit Direct Stadium almost nine months ago having inherited a squad which has predominantly suited wing-backs ever since Dave Challinor’s tenure with the club.
Askey’s 13-game stint in League Two utilised the 3-5-2 approach and it is something he has continued to use into this season, despite having the summer transfer window to consider changing his approach.
But with Pools having won just two of 12 games in all competitions ahead of the meeting with Dennis Kutrieb's Ebbsfleet, Askey had received calls to amend his approach.
The two week window without a game provided Askey with the perfect opportunity to drill into his players what he wanted as Pools lined up in a 4-3-3 formation.
But the change did not even make it to half-time as Askey was forced to revert back to a back five with Hartlepool having to endure severe pressure from Ebbsfleet, despite taking an early lead through Emmanuel Dieseruvwe.
Askey was hindered in his approach by a number of late injuries ahead of the game, but the Pools boss admitted things were ‘not working’ which resulted in a change back to what has been the preferred set-up, as frustrations continued on Clarence Road.
“We tried to change the system, which we’d worked on. We’d planned for it all week and then Charlie Seaman gets injured and Joe Grey is ill,” Askey revealed.
“To some extent we were then putting square pegs in round holes. When you’ve geared up to play a certain way [it impacts you]. Zak [Johnson] ended up at right-back and Chris [Wreh] on the right. You’re then just thinking we’ll go with it and if it’s not working, as it wasn’t, then we’ll change it back to what we’re used to.
“You can see in the first 20-30 minutes we needed to change something. It didn’t quite work.
“So we changed it back and we were a little bit better, and we could have gotten away with it, we could have nicked the game, but we didn’t.”
Askey would then further elaborate on his approach in general this season, and why it’s been difficult to change things following the significant injury to defender Dan Dodds.
“From the start of the season with what we’ve got, especially with Doddsy, we thought we had to go with a back three,” he said.
“It didn’t suit Doddsy to play with a back two, he’s not really a right-back, so to go with a three he was so important to us and that was the reason why we geared up the squad to play with wing-backs, and to come away from that is not easy when you haven’t got the personnel.”