FC Halifax Town v Hartlepool United: Opposition focus

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FC Halifax Town host a Hartlepool team on Tuesday aiming to bounce back from “a big reality check” on the opening day of the season, according to Dominic Spurr of the Hartlepool Mail.

Craig Hignett’s side lost 3-1 at home to Sutton United on Saturday, with a brace from Harry Beautyman putting the away side 2-0 up before Gime Toure scored on his Pools debut against his old club, but Will Randall-Hurren wrapped up the win with a late third.

“Pools enjoyed a busy but prodcutive pre-season with eight matches played in July,” said Spurr. “27 goals scored and 13 conceded in the friendly matches suggests there will be plenty of action at both ends in Pools matches. This was apparent on the opening day for all the wrong reasons as they fell to a 3-1 defeat at home to Sutton United which offered a big reality check for everyone.

“They made eight signings over the summer and many of them impressed during pre-season. The most impressive one was securing a full-time move for winger Luke Molyneux from Sunderland after the 21-year-old impressed at Victoria Park on loan in the second half of last season. Unfortunately for Hartlepool, he’s currently out injured but nearing a return. Out of the likely starters on Tuesday night, the most impressive signing has probably been Gus Mafuta fresh from promotion with Salford City. The 24-year-old has brought some much needed steel to the midfield and was probably the one player from Saturday’s defeat to come out of the game with any real credit.”

Spurr reckons Halifax will need to be wary of Toure on Tuesday night.

He said: “The French forward put in an eye catching performance on Saturday initially for all the wrong reasons before a rare moment of class saw his thrash home Pools’ only goal of the game. He’s a powerful maverick of a player who will like to get on the ball and run at defenders. He can be incredibly frustrating at times but is equally capable of producing that moment of class that can result in a goal.”

Spurr says Hignett wants his team to play fast, attacking football by keeping the ball on the deck and playing out from the back.

“But we saw very little of that on Saturday,” he said. “There’s pace and power in the squad who are fairly flexible in terms of the system they will play. They have the personnel to play wide or through the middle so there is always an air of unpredictability about them. The willingness to get players forward and attack can lead to some high scoring matches as we saw the back-end of last season and in the opening game of this season.”

Pools’ willingness to attack and fairly new-look back line risks leaving them vulnerable defensively, Spurr says.

“That was apparent on Saturday. Craig Hignett handed starts to three summer signings as part of his back five and that was apparent from the start as they conceded to sloppy goals early on. Their young left-back Romoney Crichlow-Noble played his first game at National League level and was left exposed before slowly getting to grips with the pace of the game but at that point the damage had already been done.”

Spurr says there are quite a few injuries Pools will have to contend with in the opening weeks of the season.

“Key players Luke Molyneux (foot), Josh Hawkes (hamstring) and captain Ryan Donaldson (calf) will likely miss the game following injuries picked up during pre-season,” he said. “Kenton Richardson (ankle) was forced off on Saturday and his like for like replacement Peter Kioso was rested due to a calf issue. Luke Williams and Myles Anderson are nearing returns to full fitness after longer standing injury issues.”

Spurr says Hignett tends to play a 4-3-3 formation with either one striker and two wide-men or two strikers and one sitting just behind and being the tip of a midfield diamond.

“Following Saturday’s defeat, there were strong suggestions of a big shake-up going into Tuesday night’s game. A lacklustre midfield display could see the likes of Nicky Featherstone and Gavan Holohan come into the starting XI while an injury to right-back Kenton Richardson could see Peter Kioso come in providing he shakes off a calf strain.”

Likely line-up: Killip; Kioso, Raynes, Kerr, Crichlow-Noble; Mafuta, Holohan, Featherstone; Muir; Kabamba, Toure.