JACK Baldwin is set for an extended stay in the Hartlepool United first-team after manager Neale Cooper admitted the teenager epitomised the spirited reaction he had demanded from his players.
The 18-year-old was recalled to the side for Saturdy’s draw with Shrewsbury Town, in which Andy Monkhouse salvaged a last-minute point, with Cooper having axed three senior players in response to the midweek drubbing at Preston North End.
Restored at right-back in place of Neil Austin, Baldwin duly scooped man-of-the-match plaudits following a performance which married determination and bravery to skill and composure.
And it now looks certain that the softly-spoken southerner will retain his place for this weekend’s trip to Colchester United and beyond.
“The best player on the day for me was Jack Baldwin – I thought he was superb,” said Cooper as he today reflected on the point which kept Pools out of the League One drop zone.
“He put his head in where it hurts twice in the first five minutes and I thought that was brilliant. That’s what I was after.
“He looked like one of the best right-backs I’ve seen and I know that’s not his natural position. He made some great challenges and won headers, a great game.”
Pools went ahead on 15 minutes when Steve Howard cushioned a header into the path of Jonathan Franks and he dispatched in uncompromising fashion.
The advantage was to last just 12 minutes and, when Pools failed to clear what was a relatively harmless loft into the penalty area, Marvin Morgan pounced to level matters.
The visitors looked to have taken the points when a quick break ended with Morgan wriggling free of Peter Hartley before tucking beneath keeper Scott Flinders.
Only eight minutes remained and the game was in added time when sub Andy Monkhouse thundered a first-time volley beyond Chris Weale from 12 yards.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Baldwin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Franks (Holden 88), Sweeney, Murray, Lynch (Monkhouse 80), Poole (James 74), Howard. Subs Not Used: McHugh, Austin, Humphreys, Walton. Booked: Murray, Collins. Goals: Franks 15, Monkhouse 90.
Shrewsbury: Weale, Grandison, Jones, Hector, Jacobson, Wildig, Summerfield, Richards, Parry, Gornell (Wright 76), Morgan. Subs Not Used: Anyon, Purdie, Taylor, Hall, Doble, Goldson. Goals: Morgan 27, 82.
Att: 3, 909 Ref: Carl Boyeson (E Yorkshire).