The new season has begun, five points from the opening three games has once again brought renewed hope at Hartlepool United. However, Pool struggled last season, and again it led to a change in manager halfway through. It was a change that luckily worked for a second season running. United stayed in League Two, but at times it was close. Too close again for many.
Last season review
After a good start to the season, Pool quickly reverted back to the form that had seen them needing to claw back a 10-point gap to survive the previous season. After winning their first three games, only a further three were won between then and the middle of January.
They beat Wycombe Wanders at the beginning of the year, but three of the next four games ended in defeat. A change was needed if the club were to survive in the Football League. Ronnie Moore departed and ex-Middlesbrough player and ex-Hartlepool assistant manager Craig Hignett was brought in. His job was simple, save the club from relegation. He won his first game on 13th February but it wasn’t until March came that results really improved.
Six games were played in March. Four were won with two being drawn. These results dragged Pool away from the relegation places. A further three victories during April sealed their survival. Final position 16th.
Craig Hignett took over from Ronnie Moore last February after a poor run of results left the club 21st in League Two. The possibility of a first ever relegation from the Football League looked very real. Hignett steadied the ship and the team finally moved up the table. After several managers in the past two years, Hartlepool supporters will be hoping that some stability will come to the club with Hignett at the helm.
Pre season and results so far
Two victories in the seven pre-season matches was definitely not ideal preparation. However, with new players coming in needing to settle, fitness and a degree of experimentation required, results aren’t everything at this stage. This proved to be the case when the league season kicked off. Pool have remained unbeaten in the league and although they were knocked out of the EFL Cup by Preston North End, it was by a cruel last minute winner. With five points from the opening three games, boss Hignett is quite happy, “I fancy us scoring wherever we play. We never think we’re out of a game because we know we’ve got goals in the team.”
Eight new players have so far been brought into the club. Youngsters with desire to hopefully succeed and some with experience of the lower leagues, which could prove invaluable. There are also those who have performed very well in the National League. Players such as Irishman Pádraig Amond who scored an impress 37 goals last season for Grimsby Town. Players such as Amond are now looking to prove that they can make it in the Football League. Several players have also moved on to balance the squad.
Players to look out for this season
Billy Paynter and Pádraig Amond could be the two men to fire Hartlepool to a respectable league position if not better this season. The experienced Paynter scored 15 goals in his maiden campaign for the club to help United survive last season. It earned him runner up spots in both the Fans and Players Player of the Year awards. He has two goals in three games already this term as he looks to beat last years total and keep his side at the right end of the table.
Forward Amond, who can also play on the wing, was one of Craig Hignett’s main transfer targets this summer. A Player with an eye for goal, he has scored regularly wherever he has been but last season he really found form. 37 goals for Grimsby Town helped fired them to promotion and also make him a huge fan favourite. After opening his account in the draw at Crewe Alexandra, Pool fans will be hoping there are more goals so come from their new front man.
Final thoughts – Renewed hope at Hartlepool
Since being relegated back to League Two, United have endured three very tough seasons. Hignett and his side will now be looking to change things and give their long-suffering supporters a less stressful season this time around. The team has goals in it and the manager has installed a never say die attitude in the squad which was seen in their comeback versus Crewe last time out. They snatched a 3-3 draw after being 3-1 down, this extended their unbeaten start of the season and will give them even more confidence in their fighting abilities.
Few fans will be looking at promotion this season; however, forward steps will be what is looked at come May next year.
Six goals scored so far will please many, although the five conceded may be an early season concern. It will be a long season for those Hartlepool fans in the North East but if Hignett and the side can perform as they can, then those forward steps that the fans crave maybe there for all to see come the end of the season.