Hartlepool v Colchester: Pools’ proven performers


Hignett and Deverdics – www.hartlepoolunited.co.uk

Some of the best players from last season’s National League face some of the worst from League One, in a League Two game on Saturday. Colchester United sunk to relegation from the third tier last term, conceding some 99 goals. They paid for putting too much faith in the kids, no fewer than 16 of the 40 players used being academy graduates.

Baring centre-back Luke Prosser and midfielder Doug Loft, all of the club’s summer arrivals are under 24. The appointment of John McGreal, who has previously worked with the Under-18s and then the Developments Squad, indicates that they will continue to blood the youth.

Pre-season has left McGreal none the wiser as to what his best team is. Playing 4-3-3 is a club philosophy that is questioned by supporters, so to the continued starts for much-maligned striker Chris Porter. Alternatives include Birmingham loanee Denny Johnstone, who has struggled to make an impact in pre-season, and the talented but unproven Macaulay Bonne.

By contrast, Hartlepool possess proven performers in attack. Padraig Amond was top scorer in the division below last year for Grimsby and Lewis Alessandra played regularly for a Plymouth side that made the play-offs a year ago. Throw in the possibility of Chesterfield arrival Jake Orrell impressing and the dependence on Billy Paynter’s fitness has been reduced.

Last week’s friendly with Scunthorpe suggested the 32-year-old will start up top in a 4-3-3. Alessandra may replace the departed Luke James on the right of the front three, while Nathan Thomas hopes to continue his starring role on the left. With right-back Carl Magnay quite defensive-minded, Hignett may licence left-back Jake Carroll to get forward and combine with Thomas.

In which case, it could be a big afternoon for right-winger Drey Wright. Following the exit of Gavin Massey, the 21-year-old has been tipped for big things by McGreal but must work hard to stop Hartlepool getting into two-on-one situations against Richard Brindley.

Even though the hosts have been near the bottom of League Two in recent years, their recruitment provides serious a statement of intent. Now, they need to back that up against the youthful U’s.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 3-1

Other League Two Predictions
Accrington v Doncaster Stanley have lost key men, Donny have another injury crisis. 1-1.
Blackpool v Exeter Disgruntlement at Bloomfield Road, Exeter thrive away. 1-2.
Cambridge v Barnet Could be a physical game, Akinde/Legge duel looks tasty. 1-1.
Cheltenham v Orient O’s have had a much more productive summer. 1-3.
Crawley v Wycombe Gritty Wycombe a stern test for Drummy’s young squad. 0-2.
Grimsby v Morecambe Grimsby to mark their return to the league with a win. 2-1.
Newport v Mansfield Stags have added quality, Exiles more quantity. 0-3.
Plymouth v Luton Keeper Walton to prove a point to his old club. 0-1.
Portsmouth v Carlisle Cumbrians to attack Pompey, which may work against them. 3-1.
Stevenage v Crewe Boro building steadily under Sarll, Davis’ Crewe declining. 2-0.
Yeovil v Notts Co Poor transfer business at Yeovil, Magpies may capitalize. 1-2.