The key talking points from Hartlepool United's Papa John's Trophy third round success over Bolton Wanderers

Hartlepool United edged closer to a Wembley final after toppling yet another League One side in cup competitions this season.

Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 4:45 pm

Graeme Lee’s side narrowly saw off Bolton Wanderers at the Suit Direct Stadium thanks to Matty Daly’s late goal that had been gift wrapped by Wanderers keeper Joel Dixon.

Daly still had to keep his composure as he went round Dixon to put the ball into an empty net and move Pools into the quarter finals of the Papa John’s Trophy.

And here we look at some of the key talking points from another pleasing night at the Suit Direct Stadium.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Matty Daly continued his fine form in the Papa John's Trophy against Bolton Wanderers. Picture by FRANK REID

Setting the scene

It was a return to cup action for Pools and perhaps a welcome one at that with Lee’s side on a run of just one win in nine in the league.

As frustrating as Saturday’s blank against Oldham Athletic was, there were signs of Pools being able to threaten the opposition where on another day they might have scored on more than one occasion.

But a Papa John’s Trophy tie with League One opposition in Bolton afforded Pools the opportunity to take a break from the pressures of the league and pit themselves against higher level opposition once more.

Olufela Olomola made a solid account of himself in Hartlepool United's win over Bolton Wanderers. Picture by FRANK REID

And it’s a challenge they have been more than level to this season having beaten Wycombe Wanderers and Lincoln City in the FA Cup and Sheffield Wednesday in round two of this competition on Lee’s first day as manager.

And Pools will have fancied their chances against a Wanderers side who had won just one of their last eight games in all competitions ahead of their trip to the Suit Direct Stadium.

Team news

As has been the case in most of Pools’ cup games this season there were a number of changes from League Two duty.

Graeme Lee and Michael Nelson embrace after Hartlepool United booked their spot in the quarter finals of the Papa John's Trophy. Picture by FRANK REID

Lee made eight from the New Year’s Day stalemate with Oldham with goalkeeper Ben Killip and defenders Timi Odusina and Neill Byrne the only ones to retain their spot in the starting XI.

Killip’s inclusion came as somewhat of a surprise given Jonathan Mitchell’s record of starting cup games this season but the Pools number two was not involved in the squad on Saturday and remained omitted on Tuesday.

Odusina has been an ever-present since Lee’s arrival after initially impressing in the previous round against Sheffield Wednesday while Byrne took the captains armband with midfielder Nicky Featherstone named among the Pools substitutes.

There was a return to the side for Stoke City loanee Eddy Jones who came in at fullback while Tom Crawford also returned to the midfield having recovered from COVID-19 over the Christmas period.

Luke Molyneux was reinstated to the starting XI as part of a new-look attack with Joe Grey and Olufela Olomola handed opportunities to impress from the off in the wake of Tyler Burey and Will Goodwin’s return to their parent clubs.

A change of system

Lee made eight changes to his starting XI and also made a change to his system with Pools ditching the back five they have been synonymous with over the last 12 months for a back four.

Jones was named at right back with neither Jamie Sterry or Reagan Ogle included in the squad with Zaine Francis-Angol on the opposite flank.

On paper it suggested Lee would favour more of a 4-3-3 but in practice it resembled more of a 4-4-1-1 with Grey and Olomola acting as all action wingers as Daly tucked in behind Molyneux who led the line. Crawford and Martin Smith were the two central midfielders.

A chance for Grey and Olomola

It has been no secret that Pools have struggled in front of goal at times this season and while both Grey and Olomola would have preferred a more central starting berth, each did themselves justice in a wide role.

Olomola in particular impressed and was effective both in attack and in defence with the 24-year-old not shying away from his defensive duties to help the team.

Grey, on the left wing, found things a little more difficult in the first half but transitioned into the role well in the second half and made a threat of himself when drifting infield.

With the transfer window open players like Olomola and Grey will need to grab any opportunities which come their way and both gave solid accounts of themselves in somewhat unfamiliar roles.

Jones fills in

Another player who made the most of being handed a starting shirt was defender Jones who filled on the right of a back four.

Jones has been limited in his game time since his arrival on-loan from Stoke and is considered more of a left sided player but with Sterry, Ogle and Luke Hendrie all missing from the squad, Jones was asked to do a job by Lee and he did so well.

After a nervy start Jones acquitted himself well and become a threat for Pools both in defence and in attack and has given Lee food for thought ahead of discussions about his future with his parent club Stoke.

The Matty Daly trophy

There’s just something about Daly and this competition.

Daly’s strike six minutes from time was his fifth in four appearances in the EFL Trophy as the Huddersfield Town loan star continues to carve Pools’ path into the latter stages of the competition.

Daly acted more as a number 10 against Bolton and almost opened the scoring early on, bringing a good save from Dixon low to his left.

The 20-year-old linked well with Molyneux in the first half before drifting slightly in the second.

But when gifted the opportunity from a loose pass by Dixon, Daly remained the calmest man in the Suit Direct Stadium to send Pools into the final eight of the competition.

Daly is enjoying a breakout season with Pools having made 27 appearances with his goal tally now up to seven across league and cup and you wouldn’t back against him notching in the quarter final, too.

Hartlepool United XI: Killip, Jones, Odusina, Byrne, Francis-Angol, Crawford, Smith (Featherstone ‘76), Daly, Olomola (Fondop ‘82), Grey (Ferguson ‘90), Molyneux

Subs: Boyes, Shelton, Holohan

Bolton Wanderers XI: Dixon, John, Williams, Almeida Santos ©, Johnston, Delfouneso, Charles (Doyle ‘61), Fossey, Afolayan, Kachunga (Bakayoko ‘55), Thomason

Subs: Gilks, Aimson, Brocbank, Baptiste

Yellow cards: Thomason, Santos

Attendance: 2,529

A message from the Football Clubs Editor

Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Hartlepool United coverage 365 days a year.

This depth of coverage costs, so to help us maintain the high-quality reporting that you are used to, please consider taking out a subscription to our new sports-only package here.

Your support is much appreciated. Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor.