Hartlepool v Pompey: The opposition view

Nathan Thomas Picture: Dan Westwell
Nathan Thomas Picture: Dan Westwell
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Hartlepool have just hit a bit of a promotion brick wall over the past two matches, following defeats to Accrington and Oxford United.

Both were very close games possession-wise, regardless of the losses, and that has been the difference under Craig Hignett.

Pools are keeping the ball at present and looking quite good on it, so there is definite promise.

After being thumped 4-1 at Bristol Rovers at the beginning of March, they embarked on a seven-match unbeaten run which effectively kept them up.

It was a period of five wins and two draws, as a team only two points above the relegation zone took themselves right out of it.

Even though they lost 2-0 at Oxford last weekend, Hignett’s team had nearly 60-per-cent possession, yet couldn’t score.

Hignett arrived in February as Ronnie Moore’s replacement and the team have done a hell of a lot better.

He has instilled belief and switched the system to a 4-3-3, which is actually more of a 4-5-1, making Pools a lot more solid, bar the Bristol result.

I felt the sacking of Moore was grossly unfair on a guy who did superbly last season to keep them in the Football League.

Without him there might not be a Hartlepool today – relegation and it would have been oblivion.

There were certainly not any chants calling for Moore’s head at the time, the supporters were a lot more respectful than that.

I don’t even think they would have gone down if he had remained in charge – York and Dagenham & Redbridge were truly woeful.

Yet Hartlepool’s results were not good and the chairman, Gary Coxall, felt it was time for a new man at the helm.

That was his decision and he has been completely vindicated in making that call. He was proven right.

A notable performer this season has been Nathan Thomas, a January arrival from Mansfield.

The 21-year-old operates on the left of the attacking three, has scored five goals and beats people for fun. Stick the ball to him and he is off and away.

It was Moore’s signing and he has been brilliant, definitely one to watch, with a lot of promise.

In his early days plenty of shots flew into the car park, whereas he has now added a finishing touch to his game.

Also deserving of a mention are the three guys in midfield – Nicky Featherstone, Michael Woods and Lewis Hawkins – who make the team tick.