Grimsby Town v Hartlepool Utd: Nathan Thomas thriving on pressure for Pools

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Five-goal Hartlepool United talisman Nathan Thomas is having to deal with the pressures of expectation this season.

And while he is not used to that kind of responsibility, Thomas feels like he’s thriving in his new found role of Pools main goal threat.

“Now there is an expectancy that I will score goals,” said the in-form Pools top-scorer ahead of tomorrow’s League Two trip to Grimsby.

“It’s a new kind of pressure for me to deal with.

“I like to think that when my back is up against the wall that brings out the best in me.

“As a player I always like to stand up and be counted.

“Look, if I am scoring goals and we are winning - great. If I’m not scoring and we are still winning I am just as happy.

“It doesn’t matter who is scoring the goals as long as we are putting points on the board.”

Ex-Sunderland academy youngster Thomas has gone from being chief creator at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium to robbing the goalscoring talents off club captain Billy Paynter.

It’s a role he’s keen to continue to fill.

And by the sounds of it, it’s something gaffer Craig Hignett has earmarked for the 22-year-old, too.

“The gaffer sat me down at the start of the season and told me I needed to score double figures,” he said.

“I have never had that said to me before.

“I have never been in a team where the pressure is on me to do anything.

“At Plymouth and Mansfield it was a case of not knowing whether I was going to be in the starting XI every week.

“I didn’t really have a job in the team. My role was to come on and maybe change a game if the team were getting beat.

“I like to think that now I have cemented myself in the manager’s plans.”

The sight of Thomas wheeling away celebrating is becoming an increasingly welcome sight at Pools.

But it hasn’t always been that way.

Thomas netted six goals the whole of the season in 2015/16, but it took him until march to really start hitting the goals trail.

“Last season creating was my main responsibility,” he said.

“This season there has been a change in focus.

“When I was growing up I scored a lot of goals.

“As a got older I changed my game to become an out and out winger.

“Positionally I am trying to work hard on my defensive duties.

“I am working every day in training and in matches to make sure I improve that area.

“Last season I maybe waited for the ball to come to me on the right. Now I drift inside and try to link up a lot more.”

A change in mentality has been a key factor in his transformation from bright spark wideman to Pools main dangerman.

With that shift in thinking he has become a more positive influence in and around the area.

Although he admits he feels like he is still learning the ropes.

“Being in and around the penalty box is a new thing for me,” he said.

“Three of my goals this season have been from around the six yard box, I think.

“Keepers aren’t that good at this level and they make mistakes, the same as the defenders at this level. You know getting into the right place at the right time at this level will provide you with goals. I have learned that.”

One thing that can’t be doubted is the talent possessed within Hignett’s Pools squad.

They may be young, and at times a little naive, reckons Thomas, but if a few things start to go the club’s way, this could turn out to be a very special season at the Vic.

“We really want to achieve something this season,” he said.

“We are working hard every day to get somewhere.

“Nobody outside of these four walls gives us a chance.

“But I think we are starting to show that we can do something special.”

That confidence in Pools hopes, as he says, has not been something shared by many this season. Well, that is until maybe the last few weeks.

He continued: “Luton are the best team we have come against this season but we were the better team. There is no doubt about it.

“We feel aggrieved that we haven’t taken more from the games.

“It shows the strength of character among our ranks, though.

“We know things can improve.”