Story of the night: Billingham Town 0-4 Hartlepool United
‘I want us to be the fittest side in the league,’ that was Craig Hignett’s message to his side building up to their habitual pre-season opener at Billingham Town.
The Hartlepool boss oversaw his players run the equivalent of a marathon in the week leading up to the first match of pre-season at Bedford Terrace.
A healthy squad including five of the six new summer additions arrived on a warm evening at Bedford Terrace, once the home of Pools’ reserve side and an ideal setting for a side itching to get into the swing of things.
Gus Mafuta was the only new arrival not featuring in the friendly match – Ryan Donaldson, Myles Anderson and Luke Williams were recovering from injuries.
Pools’ trialists were Jack Spark, Jason Kennedy and Liam Smith.
There has been a lot of talk about this Hartlepool side so far in pre-season. The scientific approach, the fitness, change in mentality – no excuses.
But an Elvis classic belted out over the PA prior to kick-off summed everything up perfectly – ‘a little less conversation, a little more action’.
As expected, Craig Hignett’s side dominated possession for the first half against the Northern League Division Two champions and eventually broke the deadlock after 33-minutes with a drilled shot into the bottom right corner from marquee signing Molyneux.
Gavan Holohan doubled the advantage on the stroke of half-time with a close range header.
A virtually entirely different Pools XI emerged for the second half and picked up where they left off as Luke James latched onto Nicke Kabamba’s flick before unleashing a devastating 20-yard finish into the right corner.
The second half presented the Pools players to really let their fitness shine through and they ultimately did as Liam Noble added a fourth with a fine low volley from outside the box.
And that concluded a productive evening at Billingham for both sides regardless of the scoreline with the majority of the Pools squad getting 45-minutes under their belt.
For two sides that have flirted with going out of existence in recent years, it’s refreshing that the future is now looking bright.