VICTORIA PARK was in the dark last night as a half-time power cut dropped the floodlights out; by then, however Middlesbrough supporters may had already have seen the light.
Spanish striker Kike has arrived for big money this summer. The 3.5m Euros outlay on the striker indicates a shift in spending at the Riverside.
In two pre-season outings, at Rochdale and now in a 2-0 win at Hartlepool, the forward has already indicated enough to suggest he could be a big hit next season.
Kike’s touch and control was assured and, while he may have caught the eye at Rochdale last weekend with his movement behind the defence, this time he showed a willingness to come short and bring his team-mates into play.
There was also another new recruit on show last night, as James Husband started on the left side, creating the second goal, hours after completing his £500,000 switch from Doncaster. Curtis Main has moved in the opposite direction as part of the deal.
“He is a good lad, a young player who can improve a lot with us,’’ said Aitor Karanka. “James can play left back or left winger in front and I hope the players who are arriving are improving the squad.
“And each day we aim to get the improvement in the squad.
“We have a very good atmosphere and the lads took to him very well. He is comfortable with the squad. He has a bright future.’’
Boro stepped up in the second half, scoring three unanswered goals and Karanka said: “I told the players at half-time it was going to go in the way we wanted. If we wanted an easy game, it would be an easy game. The first half was disappointing as we didn’t have enough moments, tempo with the ball or intensity.
“Adam Reach helped us and with the substitution we were better.
“Hartlepool are a good team, with good organisation and a good coach, but we didn’t do the things we wanted.
“Maybe the lights going off at half-time woke us up. We needed more and we got it against a very organised team and we needed to pass the ball better.’’
Two minutes in and Boro were given a early look at Kike. Scott Flinders’ slack clearance went to Albert Adomah and he fed the nimble Spaniard, whose shot on the half-turn hit the frame of the goal.
Both sides were fielding fluent formations, with Pools’ 4-5-1 aiming to turn into a 4-3-3 on the attack, with Boro’s movement across midfield with three in behind Kike dominant.
Luke James, who along with Michael Duckworth signed a new contract at Victoria Park yesterday, was playing on the left side and his willingness to chase and get in behind defenders was missed.
Kike’s next half-chance came when Neil Austin left a header short of Flinders. The striker rounded the keeper, but his touch was heavy and the angle left tight.
Marlon Harewood sprayed wide for Jack Compton to latch onto and his pace took him away, but his shot sailed over from the edge of the area.
Adam Reach was put on at half-time for Albert Adomah and six minutes later he headed his side in front, rising above Neil Austin to arc his finish around Flinders.
Boro started the second half with more vigour and Luke Williams, on loan at Pools for a brief spell last season, curled a shot that Flinders pushed out.
Another to play his football at Victoria Park last season, Christian Burgess, sent a header from a corner onto the roof of the net.
Kike was replaced to a solid ovation from the travelling support.
But it didn’t take long for his replacement to get on the scoresheet amid the ever-increasing gloomy night.
Husband crossed from the left and Bradley Fewster nipped inside the six-yard area to turn home.
Reach wasn’t too far from a second as he fired a shot across goal from 20 yards.
And Flinders was at full reach to push a low Fewster shot away from goal as time and daylight came to a close.
Pools boss Colin Cooper said: “It was a tough test for us – I expected it because I know what Boro and Aitor does. I thought Kike was excellent.
“I take nothing from this, I don’t think we showed enough verve to get at them. We showed them respect.“
Pools were without Tommy Miller who has a hamstring strain and of fellow trialist Jonathan Greening, he said: “He was fine in there, he’s been on trial at Rotherham and I’ve been speaking to him all summer. He would be a smashing addition, but has other options. We see where we go from there.
“He’s a good footballer who rarely gives the ball away.
“I want to make more signings, I’m on the lookout, hence him and Tommy Miller as well. I watched Boro Under-21s and I’ve spoke to Gus Poyet at Sunderland too. I want some solid citizens who want to be part of Hartlepool United and add some gold dust to that as well.
“Hopefully we can keep relationships going with the North-East clubs.’’
HARTLEPOOL UNITED: Flinders; Duckworth, Bates, Austin, Holden; Compton (Franks 61), Parnaby (Rowbotham 75), Greening, Walker, James, Harewood. Subs: Rafferty (gk), Collins, Smith, Jones, Richards.
MIDDLESBROUGH: Konstantopoulos; Bennett, Burgess, Hines, Husband; Whitehead (Morris 79), Leadbitter; Williams, Adomah (Reach 46), Halliday (Atkinson 72); Kike (Fewster 68). Subs: Gibson, Tomlin, Osorio.
Referee: Tony Harrington (Hartlepool)