Hartlepool United v Chesterfield: Pools writer gives insight into what Chesterfield fans can expect from Craig Hignett's team
Chesterfield travel to Hartlepool United on Tuesday night in search of their first away win of the season.
The Pools go into the match on the back of a 2-0 home to defeat to Dover Athletic in a game which made national headlines for an alleged racism row between some Hartlepool fans and opposition players. Both teams nearly walked off the pitch as a result of the disgusting behaviour and the game was suspended for 10 minutes.
Not only that, Hartlepool had two players and manager Craig Hignett sent off.
Oh, and a Pools fan ran onto the pitch to confront the referee.
Hignett's side are currently 14th in the National League with four wins, three draws and five defeats.
We asked Dominic Scurr, Hartlepool United writer for the Hartlepool Mail, for his views ahead of the game tomorrow...
What's your assessment of Hartlepool United so far this season?
A decent run of wins around the turn of month aside, it's been fairly poor for Pools so far this season. Sitting 14th in the table after consecutive defeats isn't what most people would have expected given the pre-season optimism. Frustratingly the team are more than capable of challenging and have shown it in glimpses already this season but the consistency is lacking so far. After a five game unbeaten run moved Craig Hignett's side into play-off contention after 10 matches, the games that followed lacked the conviction and intensity shown previously.
How would you sum up the job Craig Hignett has done in his time in charge?
I personally think Craig is subject to some unfair criticism at times. Whenever Pools fail to win people seem quick to blame him even if it's not always his doing. He returned as manager in the second half of last season and helped steady the ship somewhat despite an underwhelming campaign overall. On the whole he's recognised the shortcomings his side had and recruited well but for whatever reason things haven't fully clicked so far this season. After frequent managerial changes in recent years, a bit of consistency and familiarity is necessary. I think the jury is still out on whether Hignett is the man to lead Pools back to the Football League but as someone who knows the club inside out, he's the best man for the job at the moment.
What can Chesterfield fans expect from Hartlepool in terms of style of play?
Two red cards on Saturday may see Hartlepool change things up slightly with Ryan Donaldson and Nicky Featherstone unavailable. Hignett has used a 3-5-2 formation in each of the last seven games which saw them go on a five game unbeaten run before losing the last two. One thing Hartlepool have been decent at this season is adapting their style of play based on their opponents. They're most effective playing counter attacking football given the pace they have in the side but Hignett always stresses his desire to play more eye-pleasing possession football which they're capable of doing but it hasn't yielded as much success.
Who are the key men for Hartlepool?
Gime Toure is the club's top scorer this season with five though he hasn't scored in his last five matches. The Frenchman is an exciting but enigmatic individual on the pitch as he has the potential to either tear apart teams or frustrate fans in equal measure. Gus Mafuta has started every game in midfield so far this season since arriving from Salford City in the summer. The 24-year-old has arguably been Pools' most consistent performer as he's excellent at breaking play up and doing the nasty bits of the game.
What are the expectations for Hartlepool this season?
Pre-season expectations were to make the play-offs and despite a underwhelming start that remains the case. After two disappointing campaigns in the National League, everyone is desperate to have something to cheer about this campaign though it isn't looking overly likely right now.
How have Hartlepool's new signings settled in?
Pools made nine signings in total over the summer most of them have settled incredibly well. The aforementioned Toure and Mafuta have been stand-out players so far. Michael Raynes has started every game in the heart of defence and generally looked very solid as he uses his experience to command the back-line. Goalkeeper Ben Killip has had some shaky moments but has also pulled off some great saves so far so the jury is still out on him slightly. Jason Kennedy is an experienced head in midfield and was a key figure in Pools' up-turn in form between August and September.
Any quirky stories/major headlines out of the club so far this season?
It's never dull at Pools but there's not many positive stories to discuss so far.
Unfortunately, the club made national headlines over the weekend due to an alleged racially charged incident between fans and the players in the 2-0 defeat to Dover. The club have acted quickly it's obviously one or two individuals who have acted appallingly and tarnished the club's reputation. Hopefully there's more positive stuff to come from the club this season!