Analysis: Awful lot of work to do for Hartlepool after back-to-back defeats and nine goals conceded

Harry Worley in action for Hartlepool United in their 5-3 loss away to Gateshead. Picture by FRANK REID
Harry Worley in action for Hartlepool United in their 5-3 loss away to Gateshead. Picture by FRANK REID
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There is a running track around the pitch at Gateshead’s International Stadium.

A timely reminder that the upcoming League Two campaign will very much be a marathon, rather than a sprint.

Alex Whittle in action for Hartlepool United in their 5-3 loss away to Gateshead. Picture by FRANK REID

Alex Whittle in action for Hartlepool United in their 5-3 loss away to Gateshead. Picture by FRANK REID

But seven games into the pre-season programme and big questions still remain over where Pools will finish in the race.

Improving on last season’s relegation scrap is the first priority.

But expectation levels have risen as a result of the influx of new signings.

While many have impressed, there is clearly still an awful lot of work to do given the manner of the defeat against Gateshead.

Dan Jones in action for Hartlepool United in their 5-3 loss away to Gateshead. Picture by FRANK REID

Dan Jones in action for Hartlepool United in their 5-3 loss away to Gateshead. Picture by FRANK REID

Defensively, Pools were awful again, not learning the lessons of the heavy Scunthorpe United defeat.

Scott Harrison, Dan Jones and Harry Worley are still building an understanding but Harrison, in particular, needs a quick upturn in form.

Blame the individuals or blame the 3-5-2 system, either way the amount – and type – of goals conceded is a major concern. Nine in two games.

With nine players shipped out and 10 new signings – so far – this really has been a big summer of change and they will need time to gel but with less than two weeks until the new season, time is quickly running out.

Have the new players improved the squad?

Early days but the goalkeeping and striking options available to Ronnie Moore are certainly stronger. Big question marks remain over the defensive unit though.

Moore now has a solid fortnight on the training ground - plus two friendlies against Dunston and Chesterfield - to hone formations, systems and technique.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom at Gateshead though.

Hat-trick hero Rakish Bingham’s confidence will have taken a major boost - even if his third was a fluke, triallist Alex Whittle did okay, while Michael Woods impressed on his return.

Thanks to Woods’ hard graft on the training ground and in the gym, the midfielder is a month ahead of schedule.

Woods played a deeper role against Gateshead, crunching into tackles and playing simple but affective balls to keep Pools moving.

After battling back from a dislocated ankle and fractured fibula, it will take time for him to be fully match-fit but the early signs are hugely encouraging.

And a potential captain too, leading the side out.

The midfield trio of Woods, Brad Walker and Nicky Featherstone complimented each other well, with Featherstone playing in a more advanced role.

It was an entertaining encounter but one which ultimately ended in another defeat for Pools.

Major improvements are needed. Quickly.

Malcolm Crosby’s Heed took an early lead, with just nine minutes on the clock.

Pools twice had the opportunity to clear the ball but failed to do so, the ball eventually falling to Matty Pattison, who produced a pin-point low cross to the back post for Jon Shaw to tap in.

Bingham got his first of the afternoon in the 20th minute, finishing well under pressure 12-yards out after good build-up work from Featherstone.

Seven minutes later he’d added a second.

A mix-up at the back between James Curtis and Sam Russell saw the ex-Mansfield striker take full advantage, rolling the ball into an empty net.

Pools couldn’t hold on, Jimmy Phillips equalising four minutes from the break, dropping his shoulder before bursting past Harrison and finishing well.

Bingham then secured the match ball 10 minutes after the re-start with a complete fluke.

His misjudged effort from the edge of the area somehow outwitted Russell, the ball spinning off the post and over the line - the striker almost too embarrassed to celebrate.

That was as good as it got for Pools.

Heed equalised thanks to a smart finish by Danny Johnson, with Carson injuring himself as he dived for the ball.

Sub keeper Adam Bartlett – released by the Tynesiders in the summer – on in his place. But he didn’t have much to do apart from pick the ball out of the net twice.

Lively sub Wilson Neasham gave the hosts the lead in the 75th minute with a lovely lofted effort over Bartlett.

Jones hit the crossbar for Pools but Josh Gillies made it 5-3 in the 87th minute with a close-range finish.

The League Two campaign maybe a marathon.

But Moore is having nightmares over his side’s defensive display.

Gateshead (4-4-2): Russell, Baxter, Pattison (Cranston, 55), Curtis, Clark (C) (Buddle, 61), Chandler, Ramsden, Giles, Phillips (Briggs, 83), Johnson (Neasham, 68), Shaw (Ramshaw, 61).

Subs Not Used: MacDonald, Hales, Allan, McLaughlin.

Goals: Shaw (9), Phillips (41), Johnson (65), Neasham (75), Gillies (87).

Pools (3-5-2): Carson (Bartlett, 65), Magnay (Duckworth, 75), Harrison, Worley, Jones, Whittle, Woods (C) (Nelson-Addy, 75), Featherstone, Walker (Thompson, 51), Bingham (Oates, 70) Paynter (Fenwick, 45).

Subs Not Used: Richards, Parnaby, Bates, Smith, Oyenuga.

Goals: Bingham (20, 27, 55)

Referee: David Webb

Attendance: 853.