THREE times during his interview following his man of the match performance on his Hartlepool United debut, Macauley Southam-Hailes spoke of a desire to enjoy his football again.

Chances at Fleetwood Town have been all to scarce for the right-back since he moved from Barry Town 12 months ago.

It’s fair to say he enjoyed his Saturday evening this time around.

The most assured of debuts earned him the man of the match award, with it came two bottles of bubbly and a box of chocolates.

His standard has been set. And so too for Pools. This was arguably their most accomplished show of the campaign to date.

“I think there’s more to come from him,’’ said boss Dave Challinor. “To get man of the match and thank the crowd is great on his debut. To be here will do him good. This was a proper football match, proper atmosphere, that’s why you do it. It was a great start and about building on that and being adaptable around different teams and opposition.

“He asked at half-time, at 1-0 up, if he could still be expansive – of course he could.

“In terms of what you want from a full-back he did it all well. And he can build on it.’’

Southam-Hailes has been brought in to replace Peter Kioso, who left for Luton last week. The old right back was back at Victoria Park on Saturday to say his farewells and his old role seems to be in safe hands.

A back four with three players on loan secured a first clean sheet in eight games. Gary Liddle and Tim Odusina were comfortable all day, the latter signed from Norwich for the rest of the season, the former set to stay on loan from Walsall.

Challinor is fast putting his stamp on the side. This was a different Pools to the one that lost at Stockport in October, a result and performance that cost Craig Hignett his job.

County played the same sort of pressing game in the first-half they did at Edgeley Park, but this time Pools were smarter and passed through and around the opposition when they could.

In the second-half, Pools came out from the off and dominated.

Challinor is making progress at Pools, the outlook being changed. They look more focused and efficient, working hard across midfield and up front. There’s no room for slackers or complacency in this team.

In his programme notes, Raj Singh wrote of the club having players on two-year deals earning over £1,000 a week and not playing when he took over almost two years ago.

Those days are gone. Thankfully, those miserable failures in blue and white have long gone too.

Challinor has an eye for a player at this level. Southam-Hailes, if his debut is anything to go by, and Mark Shelton two examples. Shelton, signed from Salford, epitomises this team. Hard-working, willing and able to run all day, he set up Aidan Keena for the opener before slotting home the second himself.

Aidan Keena ran all day up front, showed a good touch and a knack of being in the right place at the right time, with a goal on his home debut.

“He can be a handful, he ran the wrong way when he scored and should have ran to where the nutters were in the corner!’’ smiled Challinor.

“Aidan will put himself in a position to score goals. He will get maybe 10 rubbish goals inside the six-yard box. He will get open goals, tap-ins as he puts himself there. He loves a partner alongside him, but to develop as a player he will learn from it.

“He works hard, wants to score and we have to get him off the training pitch as he wants to score all the time and improve. But he’s not just a box player, he will get other goals, but a seasoned striker which everyone is looking for, will get more.’’

Challinor and Joe Parkinson worked the players hard in training last week as he gets them primed for the final 14 games. There’s a difference between being fit and National League fit.

“I think the players need to celebrate a really good performance,’’ he said. “That doesn’t get much better than what they have done and even grumpy me can smile.

“Let’s use that as motivation – four unbeaten and keep it going.’’

With a two-goal lead, the outcome was never in danger. It was comfortable and content. With Stockport bringing a healthy following – filling three quarters of the Rink End – and the North West Corner issues seemingly resolved inside Victoria Park, it made for a sparky atmosphere. It felt like a proper game and Southam-Hailes admitted he was taken aback by the occasion.

For Challinor, it’s proving a different sort of job to that of Flyde. There’s expectation at Pools, more pressure from a passionate support base, who have suffered in recent years.

It’s a task he’s relishing: “I’m loving it here – I hate it sometimes as well. Half an hour to go and I asked Sweens how long before we feel alright?

“The welcome I’ve had here is brilliant, what I expected in terms of supporters. Off the pitch we are at a point where things are moving up and we have a really big opportunity this season.

“We are putting a team together now, and in the summer, to have a go. I want players to enjoy it and this is different to what they are used to and hopefully they are buying into it.

“Coming here has given me something different to what I had at my previous club.’’