Hartlepool United v Burton Albion preview

A COUPLE of games out of the firing line and Craig Hignett is hoping that a little rest will freshen up a couple of Hartlepool United’s attackers. 
Luke James and James Poole have both started two games in the last week on the bench following a constant run of games.
Pools had been sticking to a preferred 4-2-3-1 formation and a settled line up of late, but altered both for trips to Cheltenham and Coventry in the last seven days.
There’s every chance they could revert to the norm this afternoon when Burton Albion visit Victoria Park, although solid performances in the last week will come into the thinking of Hignett and manager Colin Cooper.
“We took James and Luke out of the firing line - we’ve got a few games coming up, Luke has played 12 games on the bounce, the most he’s played in his career and the last couple he’s been battered and bumped so we tried to freshen him up as he looked a bit tired,’’ said the assistant manager.
“Jonny Franks wanted to play up front, and in training he’s looked sharp. We gave him a go at Cheltenham and scored twice.
“From James Poole’s point of view, he’s been carrying a couple of knocks, didn’t look himself. Had a limited impact in a couple of games, we gave him a rest, let him settle down.’’
Pools have four games in 11 days to come, before a free day on January 4 as opponents Southend are still in the FA Cup.
Hignett added: “Teams watch us and know what he does and teams will try and counteract him. As long as they are both fresh and fit and ready then it’s job done.
“But it’s at the point now with a lot of games coming, a lot of games been played on the spin and we wanted to let others do really well.’’
James has caught the eye this season with his effervescent displays up front, and his ten goals and lively performances have drew plenty of attention – from both scouts and centre-halves.
Hignett said: “Luke has ten goals, I’m sure he lulls people into a false sense of security as he only looks like a kid, but the impact he has and the effort he puts in is incredible really. He is high energy and it will take a toll.
“A run of games of doing that week in, week out will take it out of you. He has looked a bit jaded, but he’s been fantastic for us and anything we can do to get the best out of him we will.
“I’m really pleased with how we are attacking teams now. There was a problem there and we had a run of not scoring at the start of the season, so me and the gaffer have been working on it.
“We put the principles down of what we want – passing the ball, where and when we want to pass it. The other side, in the final third, we have improved and look dangerous at times. We look like we can score goals.
“When we go a goal behind now I don’t get worried and I know we will come back and keep going the whole game. That, coupled with how we are trying to play and do things, I will always fancy us to score.’’
Scoring was a problem at the start of this season – and also throughout the last campaign.
But Hignett, a Premier League attacker during his playing days, has been pleased with the turnaround in attacking fortunes at Victoria Park.
“We were two down at Cheltenham at half-time and we had enough time to get back into it and do something about it,’’ he reflected.
“We had chances in the first half and always looked like we would get something from it. Even the other night when we put Sam Collins up front late on!
“We had him and Monks up there with Luke and James running off them and it caused problems. We got the goal from a corner that was won from a cross by Sam. It worked!
“To be fair it was a really good ball in, well defended and he did have an impact. We will try things in games, we went three at the back at Cheltenham.
“We know when people aren’t comfortable and we weren’t comfortable for the first half hour.
“I feel it’s a system that can work and we have the players to do it, but maybe it needs a bit more work than what we thought.
“We changed it, and it worked when we altered and that gave us a foothold in the game. It’s good to have different systems and ways of playing – but nothing changes, in terms of how we want to play football and use the ball.’’
Today marks Pools final home game of 2013, and the place is a far happier one now than 12 months ago for players and supporters alike.
“The atmosphere is much better at home games now, the fans are looking forward to coming here and getting behind the lads,’’ added Hignett. “The team are putting in 100 per cent and it’s being appreciated by the fans.
“That’s all we can ask of the players. Since day one we asked for everything and they’ve given us that. There’s been some games when we haven’t been at the races, but it’s not for the want of trying.
“We said to them the other night that we are proud of the effort they have all put in since we came to the club.
“Hopefully it will continue and then results will follow.’’

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