Pools began their pre-season campaign with a comfortable win over Billingham Town in front of a packed house at Bedford Terrace.
Two goals in the first half and another two in the second were enough to see Craig Hignett’s men home on a night when the Pools boss gave the vast majority of his squad at least 45 minutes of game time.
Luke Molyneux and Gavan Holohan gave Pools breathing space going in to the break before Luke James and Liam Noble hit the net after the break to round-off a satisfying opening outing.
The game started in cagey fashion with neither team creating much of note in the opening ten minutes, though Town talisman Craig Hutchinson did fire over from long-range.
There was a moment of magic from Luke Molyneux when he cleverly jinked inside from the right but the shot didn’t match the run as he strangled the effort wide of the near post.
That moment seemed to lift Pools though and some sustained pressure minutes later opened the door for Niko Muir but his curling shot from the edge of the area didn’t have the venom to trouble the keeper.
A big chance arrived on 20 minutes when Nicky Featherstone slipped an incisive pass in behind the Billingham defence for Gime Toure but the summer signing could only stroke a shot wide under pressure.
Molyneux was looking a danger man for Pools and some more brilliant footwork saw him dance in to space on the right side of the area but this time the keeper did well to get down and parry his low drive.
Minutes later it was Toure’s turn again as the front man found space twenty yards out and unleashed a powerful drive which the keeper did well to deal with at the second time of asking.
The goal had been coming and it finally arrived on 33 minutes and it was a predictable source – Molyneux cut inside dangerously once more from the right before delivering a low drive which flew past the keeper at his near post.
Holohan was also looking lively and he almost doubled the lead when he cleverly ran inside from the right but his low left-foot strike was turned round the post by the keeper just as it looked set to hit the bottom corner of the net.
The Irishman wasn’t to be denied from the resultant corner though as he found far too much space inside the six-yard area and made no mistake with a powerful header to make it 2-0 right on half-time.
Pools made ten changes at the break with only Mark Kitching surviving in to the second half but it was the hosts who started brighter and Brad Young needed to make a sharp save early on.
It was 3-0 just before the hour mark though when Nicke Kabamba showed great vision to head the ball on for Luke James and he made no mistake, rifling home an unstoppable finish from just inside the box.
Kabamba could have added a fourth himself when he got on the end of an inswinging cross from the right but his looping header fell on to the roof of the net and Town survived.
There was a sight of goal for Josh Hawkes when Billingham only cleared away a cross to the edge of the area but the midfielder was under huge pressure and could only send a volley wide of the target.
Second half substitute Harrison Webster – a Youth Team full-back – showed his ability and confidence when he skilfully evaded a couple of challenges in the area but then fired a volley in to the side-netting.
Liam Noble came close with a curling effort from the edge of the area but didn’t quite get enough whip to beat the keeper and it flew just wide of the post.
James could have added a spectacular fourth goal when he turned inside from the left and let fly with a wicked shot which swerved towards goal and was brilliantly saved by Town’s substitute keeper Nick Cranston.
The Town stopper came to the rescue again minutes later when Hawkes escaped through on goal but again Cranston came rushing out to make a brilliant save.
Noble got on the scoresheet seven minutes from time with the goal of the game; Town could only clear to the edge of the area and the Pools midfielder struck a sumptuous volley in to the bottom left-hand corner of the net for 4-0.
Full Time: Billingham Town 0 Pools 4
Pools First Half: Killip, Richardson, Kerr, Spark, Kitching, Featherstone, Holohan, Bale, Molyneux, Toure, Muir.
Pools Second Half: Young, Kioso, Raynes, Cunningham, Kitching (Webster 65), Noble, Kennedy, Smith, Hawkes, James, Kabamba