Craig Hignett hopes the ‘Matthew Bates effect’ continues to take hold among the Hartlepool United backline.
Since the former England youth international’s return to the side, Pools have managed to keep two clean sheets in their last three.
That sequence comes after a run of three games where Hignett’s men conceded nine goals, to confirm their status as the second leakiest defence, behind Morecambe, in the League Two standings.
And Hignett is hopeful the defender’s calm influence and wealth of experience will continue to rub off on their younger lads around him.
“He has a calm edge,” said the gaffer of the 29-year-old ahead of tomorrow’s visit to high-flying Doncaster.
“It’s not just with the ball, it is without the ball, too.
“He is someone who is a good example for the younger kids.
“When you watch him, you can see the level that he has played at.
“He would still be at that level still had he not had injuries. He is still a relatively young lad.
“He gives us a little bit of calmness and has that desire to keep clean sheets.”
Without Bates and Rob Jones, as well as Carl Magnay to an extent, Pools have been forced to send out a young, inexperienced back four in recent months.
And while Hignett has been satisfied with the performance of some of his young stars, he believes having games and years under your belt is irreplaceable at this level.
“We have had four young defenders playing,” he said.
“They are all still learning the game.
“None of them are really vocal. They all have different qualities.
“Sometimes when things are starting to turn in a game you need someone to manage players through the games. That’s what experienced players do.
“We have kept on hammering away, hammering away, keep on doing the same things in games. the players have been just playing the game.
“But I want us to think. I want players to realise what to do in different situations.
“We are getting better at it, but the experience helps.”
One thing that was remarkably absent from last weekend’s post-match interview was the weekly, justified criticism of referees by Hignett.
Hignett has revealed that the club have since received feedback about officials’ performance from the relevant bodies, and it doesn’t make for good reading. Well, not for Hignett and Pools anyway.
“We have since had feedback from referees from that game (Barnet),” he said.
“They have said sorry for sending Liam (Donnelly) off, not sending (John) Akinde off for an elbow, for not giving (Nicky) Deverdics a penalty at the end.
“It all that comes back and we are told the officials will look at it and learn from it.
“Well, that’s no good for us, is it? We have lost 10 points from officials saying sorry after the event.”
The man in the middle this weekend will be Mark Haywood, with Alan Clayton and Peter Gibbons running the lines and fourth official will be David Benton.