Rhys Oates on fire as Pools extend unbeaten run to 12


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With Hartlepool’s eyes firmly set on the race for automatic promotion, the contributions of Rhys Oates in recent weeks have been vital to the continuation of their race for the Vanarama National League title.

As expected, both sides lined up in a 3-5-2 and from the get-go Hartlepool seemed the stronger of the two sides, constantly bombarding the Dagenham and Redbridge defence specifically targeting their right side where Myles Weston was utilised as a wing-back/wide midfielder.

This was something that allowed Hartlepool multiple chances through David Ferguson and the striker on the left, Rhys Oates. However, both of the Pools’ goals came from the right-hand side. The first assisted by Lewis Cass who has recently returned to the side after his suspension.

Cass played the ball through to Oates and you could see the confidence as soon as he got the ball that it would be ending up in the back of the net and it did. A composed strike towards the far post resulted in a goal to Hartlepool and Oates’ ninth of the campaign.

The goal showed what confidence can do to a player, the pass was weighted perfectly through to Oates who allows the ball to go past him before opening up his body and finishing the ball first time into the bottom corner, whilst the ball took a slight deflection, nothing can be taken away from the finish.

The Daggers would equalise just 10 minutes later though through Matthew Robinson, Hartlepool were left exposed at the back and Weston was allowed to cut back on himself before delivering a powerful, low cross into the Daggers’ number 12 who headed home from six yards.

The equaliser would later be cancelled out through a delightful header from Gavan Holohan, his second goal in as many goals and arguably, more importantly, Hartlepool’s second of the game. Hartlepool once again proving their deadliness from set-pieces following a curling delivery from captain Nicky Featherstone.

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Pools’ number 11 continually created chances throughout the game and just showed how much of an asset he is to the club, due to the higher positioning of Weston it hence allowed Ferguson to advance higher as well, however, also allowed Oates to create more space and play in the wider areas.

This freedom of movement in the channels really offers a lot of options to David Challinor, Oates has played across the front three throughout his career, however, the freedom within the 3-5-2 only plays to his strengths ensuring David Challinor gets the best out of him.

Oates creates a brilliant strike partner to all three of Pools’ central attackers in Mason Bloomfield, Luke Armstrong and new signee Richie Bennett, whose ability to play in a strike partnership was essential to his signing on the 1st April.

“Yeah absolutely (his ability to play in a two was key to his signing), he knows the league, he knows the level, he knows what we’re about, I think if you look in terms a lot of our play with how we’re set up at the moment, with Fergy’s delivery and with Jamie’s, getting balls in the box, we do put balls in the box”

Oates’ reliability in a partnership is statistically brilliant, Hartlepool have not lost once when Oates scores, but his ability to play wide and deliver crosses or create space centrally for his partner or ‘number 10’ such as Holohan or Mark Shelton to run into these spaces creates multiple options whilst still being deadly enough inside the area to create or score chances himself.

Throughout the game on Saturday, often down the channels, the play was dictated by the former Morecambe man. As I mentioned earlier, although his goal came from the right-hand side of the box and was on his stronger foot, he consistently targeted the left-hand side and this was rounded up with his tantalising run 56 minutes in.

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Picking up the ball around 10 yards inside his own half and driving deep into Daryl McMahon’s teams’ half, before entering the box and sliding a pass across the face of goal, using his weaker left foot. However, the ball only just missed the arriving Jamie Sterry, meaning Oates couldn’t get his first assist of the season.

Rhys Oates is currently a man fueled with confidence and with a ‘striker’s’ swagger around him, going forward every chance that Hartlepool had seemed to come through the Pools’ number 11 until his removal from the game and when speaking to David Challinor post-match, I asked him just how good he thought Oates was in the game,

“Yeah he was alright. From a forwards perspective as much as you look at what their performance is like generally you’re gonna be judged, you’re gonna be judged on efficiency, you’re gonna be judged on goals, you’re gonna be judged on assists and he’s scored a goal that’s put us in-front and then Gav’s got the winner.”

He also noted the potential goal race between Hartlepool’s starting strike force on Friday,

“He’s  getting closer to double figures, he’s not far off and he’s chasing Luke (Armstrong) if them two can get in a little race towards the back end of the season, to see who can finish as top-scorer, that’ll obviously benefit everyone.”

It’s clear to see the camp are positive heading into the tail-end of the season and with each game a cup final, it is massively vital that the Pools can keep this up with Challinor acknowledging the run of games and how it’s helping his side.

“Yeah they’re happy they’re always gonna be when you’re winning games, when you are in this sort of run you want the next games to come as quickly as possible, we’re obviously in a situation where for us, we do, it’s a good turnaround, we go to Boreham Wood on monday and look to keep this run going”

With just nine games to go and a race for club topscorer, Rhys Oates is going to be a man high in confidence and likely high in goal, in the final stages of this Vanarama National League campaign.

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