Ronnie Moore hopes he has solved Hartlepool United’s midfield goal quandary.
Recent loan signing Jake Gray struck twice yesterday to inspire Pools to a 3-1 League Two victory over Leyton Orient in front of the Sky Sports cameras at Victoria Park.
Previously, middle men Nicky Featherstone, Carl Magnay, Brad Walker and Michael Woods have supplied just three goals between them and Magnay’s came when he was playing right-back.
Gray clearly has an eye for goal and while there was an ounce of good fortune with his first against the Londoners – it took a deflection off defender Alan Dunne – there was no luck involved in a cracking finish for his match-clinching second on 85 minutes.
“Definitely,” said Moore.
“No disrespect to the midfielders [we have already] but they are the type of players they are.
“They keep possession and don’t give the ball away, but we need someone to go beyond the strikers.
“Jake has seven goals in 11 for Palace’s under 21s – we knew straight away if he could settle in then we would have a forward-running midfielder.
“And because we’ve not really had that, it’s taken a few training sessions to develop it. I was pleased with him. It’s nice when a young attack-minded player gets goals.
“There are more goals to come from him.
“It’s up to us to realise that he will make them runs so we need the passes in there for him.”
Sunderland striker Mikael Mandron got an assist for the first Gray goal, which was scored from the edge of the area, while fellow loan signing, Kal Naismith, unlocked the O’s defence with a delightful, left-footed through ball for the well-taken match clincher.
“I think if the third goal is scored in the Premier League, it would be talked about for some time,” said Moore.
“It was a fantastic ball inside the full-back by Kal and a great finish by Jake. You’ve got to bear in mind they’ve only had one session together. Kal only joined us on Saturday so for him to come and link up like that was great.
“He has a wand of a left-foot, there’s no doubt about that. He’s a quality player, he possession and doesn’t give it away. He’s seen the perfect run. We’ve not had player who wants to get forward like Jake. He loves them forward runs.
“What a ball and it was finished like a top striker.”
It gives Pools confidence going into another tough test, at Mansfield on Saturday. And while it was from the penalty spot, the other Pools goal too came from a midfielder – Kudus Oyenuga.
He took charge of the situation after his cross was handballed by Alan Dunne and he tucked away the 20th-minute spot-kick.
“There was no Billy, who takes our penalties, so it’s up to the players who are out there,” said Moore. “I can’t say ‘Scott Fenwick, you are taking it’ because it’s how players feel after a penalty is given.
“Kudus picked it up, Scott made half an effort for it, but only half an effort – if he’d wanted it, he’d have been fighting like mad for the ball. I didn’t fancy Kudus to be honest, and turned my back, but it was nice when it went in.”
Right-back Michael Duckworth was stretchered of, but Moore says the initial prognosis is good for the Yorkshireman, who could even be fit for Saturday’s trip to Mansfield.
Hartlepool: Carson, Duckworth (Harrison 77), Bates, Jackson, Carroll, Naismith, Magnay, Gray, Oyenuga (Oates 68), Fenwick (Featherstone 82), Mandron. Subs not used: Bingham, Bartlett, Woods, Jones. Goals: Oyenuga 20 pen, Gray 70, 85.
Leyton Orient: Grainger, Clohessy, Baudry, Dunne (Turgott 86), Shaw, Payne, James, Pritchard (Kashket 75), Simpson, Palmer, Marquis. Subs not used: Moncur, Sargeant, Semedo. Booked: James. Goal: Pritchard 13. Att: 4,081. Ref: Paul Tierney