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Pools pairing prove their worth to side
Match Analysis: York City 0 Hartlepool United 0
FOUR games into the season and Hartlepool United’s two main summer signings showed what they can do.
One dominant and aggressive up front, the other roaming around freely and grabbing hold of play in midfield.
But the issue is that it’s taken Steve Howard and Simon Walton more than four games to play in a manner that suggests they are enjoying their football; it’s taken over a year. They signed for Pools last summer.
Both flattered to deceive last season. Hailed as Neale Cooper’s stellar recruits, neither made much of an overall impression and have come in for their share of flak.
Howard’s best spell came when he went on loan to Sheffield Wednesday, Walton’s purple patch arrived after John Hughes found a system, surrounding him with runners, to suit him.
Colin Cooper has stated that Howard’s way to win over the doubters is to prove them wrong with his performances on the pitch.
At Bootham Crescent, on his first start for Pools since March, he was up for this from the off. His body language said as much and he chased the ball rather than trying to pin defenders down.
Walton played ten yards further forward than he has been. In central midfield alongside the again impressive Bradley Walker, Walton took on the responsibility of taking care of the 17-year-old well (not that Walker needs much looking after).
Walton closed down the York midfielders, and, instead of being a surrogate centrehalf in a blue and white shirt, he was a combative and competent midfielder.
“With Simon in particular we’ve had lots of conversations over the summer about where he sees himself,’’ said Cooper. “For me, Simon has to enjoy what he’s doing and he seems as if he is right now.
“We threw big Stevie in and we thought it was the right game to do that.
“There wasn’t going to be anything clever and complicated from York, we knew that from watching them.
“He became a fulcrum for us in the first half, trying to play off him.’’ Cooper added: “I thought Steve showed what he can do.
I’ve been very open with his situation over the summer.
We felt it was the right time and place and the right game to throw him in and was part of the team he will get better for it. Soon he will get himself in a place when he gets in to score goals and he was there in attack and defence for us.
“For someone who has not had a continuous pre-season, to put 80 minutes in, there’s a pat on the back.’’ Cooper praised Walton ahead of the game for his application on the training ground last week.
Hartlepool’s Neil Austin pulls the shirt of York’s Ryan Jarvis
He certainly got around the pitch more than he has been doing. Last season, he struggled and looked exposed when he played in a flat midfield four against Bury at Victoria Park; not on this occasion.
“We’ve been working on trying to get closer to the opposition – Simon did that,’’ said Cooper.
“I also saw him really encouraging Brad, that’s good.
“He looks like he’s enjoying himself. He came on last week and put in a great performance and did well again on Saturday.’’ Some of Walker’s touches and vision in midfield were good enough to suggest he won’t be spending too much of his career in League Two.
And behind the two central midfielders were a pair of centre- halves who, equally, will play higher.
Jack Baldwin is a composed talent in there, and Christian Burgess played so well he outshone his partner at the back.
On loan from Middlesbrough, Burgess read the game well and comfortably dealt with the balls pumped into the penalty area. He’s no slouch with the ball at his feet either and showed on Saturday he can stand up to a battle.
Pools only had one scare when a free-kick missed everyone, keeper Scott Flinders included, and Neil Austin was alert enough to chase back and clear the danger in front of the healthy following of 1,714 away fans.
At the other end, Jack Compton should have scored – or at least tested keeper Michael Ingham, when he took the ball in the area from a quick break led by Walker.
He blazed his shot into the away crowd.
Andy Monkhouse had a far post header cleared off the line and a Steve Howard noddown went awry With Howard getting more involved in the coming weeks and Pools learning how to utilise him, some goals are due.
“We need to be on the move a bit more in the box,’’ added Cooper. “With the chances that we’ve created so far this season I just feel we’re too static in the box.
“Someone has to read and gamble on what others are going to do.
“We’ve got to know that Steve flicks the ball straight and we’ve got to play to that.’’
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