OVER the years, Hartlepool United have had their share of goalscoring midfielders: Tommy Miller, Antony Sweeney, Chris Beech to name three of the last 20 years.

Nicky Featherstone would never be in that bracket: 229 games, nine goals.

Two goals in his last three games and playing under a new manager has changed his game. Instead of sitting deep in front of the back four and prompting with his passing, he now has a licence to roam, to exert influence in other areas of the pitch.

At Exeter last weekend, his long-range strike got Pools back into the game at 2-0 down. A week earlier, his long-range strike got Pools back into the game against Boreham Wood at 2-0 down.

Pools have yet to lose in the games in which he’s scored.

He has always had the faith of the managers he’s played under at Victoria Park – all nine of them in his five years at the club.

None of them, however, have had him playing in more advanced midfield areas like Dave Challinor has done.

“Nicky has done well of late,’’ reflected Challinor ahead of today’s game at Woking. “He’s not scored a lot of goals and sometimes it’s dictated to where you find yourself in the pitch. We try and be expansive and we have other people who can do a job as a holding player.

“It can be different as the two games in which he’s scored have been when we are chasing games, we have the freedom then to go forward and chase games.

“But I want us to get forward and do those things when we are in games which are in the balance. The goals he has, for a midfielder’s perspective – two goals from outside the area, one left foot, one right foot – he has that ability within him because you see his range of passing and he has taken on the leadership aspects he has.

“Sometimes that was a bit lost and not to the fore, but he’s been terrific here and a really important part of the team.’’

Challinor has come across Feathertstone during Pools’ games with AFC Fylde over the last two seasons and the boss knows all about the 31-year-old.

“I don’t think he has surprised me because I always knew what he was like as a player,’’ admitted Challinor.

“Different people, different managers play a holding midfielder in a different way. I suppose we had similar at Fylde because we had Lewis Montrose, big and powerful, and Ryan Croasdale, not as big but more of someone to tick things over.

“I suppose it’s the same with Feaths, he’s one who will take the ball with people around him and pass and tick it over. But he can step in get those passes made in a more forward area.

“With his range of passing he can strike the ball well, as shown with his two goals. Sometimes you have to do things a bit differently. If you are in a midfield three with, say Luke Williams and Josh Hawkes, then there’s more emphasis on you to sit there because those two will roam and attack a vit more.

“It’s about making the right decisions in games as when you can go and if you do go being aware of what’s around and behind you.

“I think there’s licence to let players have some freedom. I’ve no issue at all. There’s no set roles really, but we have changed a bit at times. At Exeter we wanted one in and around Randall Williams because he’s a threat, but responsibility is important.

“If there’s a chance to go forward, then go forward. And then the other or one of them recognises it and sits in, or a full-back moves into the space left.

“Also other people react and take responsibility.’’

Pools drew with today’s opponents at Victoria Park in early September and they have maintained their position at the top end of the table.

“Woking have had a good start back at this level, a really strong group with momentum and a winning mentality,’’ added Challinor.

“The results have kept them in the play-off positions. They are a workmanlike side with some quality and goals at the top end. They know their strengths and a big threat – as I found out against their team and their players.’’