"The last six weeks or so have been challenging" - FC Halifax Town v Hartlepool United: Opposition Focus

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We spoke to Joe Ramage from the Hartlepool Mail for the lowdown on FC Halifax Town’s opponents tomorrow night.

How are Hartlepool faring this season in relation to their pre-season expectations?

It's difficult to give a definitive answer to that. Given the nature of last season and their relegation and just the overall situation at the club, you would be forgiven for fearing the worst again this season - particularly after Scunthorpe fell straight through and Oldham struggled for a large part last season in the National League. With that said, for Hartlepool in this division, promotion had to, and has to, be the aim with the play-offs always the more likelier route. So in that sense it has been an average first third of the campaign, particularly after such a good start. The last six weeks or so have been challenging, summed up by what happened at Aldershot at the weekend.

How has Mani Dieseruvwe settled in at Hartlepool?

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Mani Dieseruvwe in action for Halifax last seasonMani Dieseruvwe in action for Halifax last season
Mani Dieseruvwe in action for Halifax last season

He has been terrific and without question is Pools' key player. Nine goals in 16 games is as good a start as anyone could have hoped for but it's not just the goals, he provides a real focal point in attack with some of his link-up play also excellent. Fortunately for Hartlepool he has returned to form after a few games without a goal - Saturday's overhead kick at Aldershot epitomising that confidence (check it out if you've not already seen it). He's hit the ground running, the supporters have taken to him and he seems to be a good character in the dressing room so it has been a very good piece of business.

What can Halifax expect from Hartlepool on Tuesday in terms of set-up and style of play?

You would like to think Pools will be a bit of a wounded animal after how they contrived to lose the game at Aldershot on Saturday. In terms of approach, there isn't much in the way of being able to shake things up given the personnel within the squad so I would expect a back three/five with wing-backs, three in midfield and two up top. Askey does try and encourage his side to play football and build - sometimes to their detriment as it has slowed attacks down in the past. Their FA Cup defeat to Chester aside, they have been marginally better in recent weeks from what we saw in September, despite the results, so they'll be looking to try and continue that.

Who are the dangermen for Halifax to watch out for?

Dieseruvwe, without question. Not only does he bring the 'former player returns to former club' tag with him on Tuesday but he brings form as well with three in his last two league games.

What sort of game are you expecting?

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You don't really know what you're going to get with Hartlepool at the minute. As mentioned, they should be a wounded animal after Saturday, so there should be a response. But this is a tricky fixture. Pools need to win because they can't afford to lose touch with the play-off places. Frustration and anger is building around the club, if it ever really went away from the end of last season, and with Rochdale to come on Saturday it doesn't necessarily get easier. Pools have only kept one clean sheet in 30 games under Askey and I don't expect that to change. I'll say a rare draw. 1-1.