Analysis: Pools deserved more against Luton – and they’ll get it, given time

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Two points lost or one gained?

The answer to that question depends very much whether you are a glass half full or half empty kind of person.

Yes, Hartlepool United again threw away a winning position to be pegged back by Luton Town, having gone in front thanks to an opportunist strike by top scorer Nathan Thomas.

Yet again they missed another chance to get that first home win.

Using that point of view, it was negative night for Craig Hignett’s men.

But turning it around maybe the true answer to that question lies in the assessment of Pools’ performance.

The hosts were again solid defensively, an area which let them down earlier in the campaign.

And, as ever, Pools are a constant threat going forward. All of that while taking on one of League Two’s form sides.

They even did it with 10 men for more than half an hour, having played the fourth tier’s third-placed side off the park to the point of Nicky Featherstone’s red card.

Whatever your feeling, while the result was not what Pools wanted or deserved, their performance from minute one to 90, like Saturday, could not be faulted.

Hignett was forced into making one change from the side who were cruelly robbed of a win at Plymouth on Saturday.

Having knocked on the door for a number of weeks Jordan Richards eventually got his chance back in the starting XI in place of the suspended Scott Harrison.

The change meant versatile Liam Donnelly was moved to play in the centre of defence, his third position in three games, alongside Toto Nsiala.

Pools started the brighter of the two again, as they did against the table topping Pilgrims as Lewis Alessandra and Thomas pushed right up in support of Irishman Amond against the Hatters.

It took 12 minutes for the first real chance of the game and it was a messy one, well, from a visiting perspective.

A low, misdirected Thomas corner from the right wasn’t cleared by the Luton backline, but instead of squirming towards goal, it tricked past the near post and to safety.

At the other end Donnelly, who has been a revelation across the back four this past fortnight, continued to look every bit at home in the centre as he has out wide.

The youngster made a fantastic goal-saving challenge from former Pools man Jake Gray in the 15th minute, before Trevor Carson had to be sharp to deny a Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu shot moments later.

Pools threatened on the break and Josh Laurent almost opened his account for the club. A Thomas cross from the left missed Amond by inches but did find Alessandra who pulled back for the 21-year-old, but his shot was wayward.

Surely it’s only a matter of time before the former QPR trainee, who is without a senior goal in his career, nets his maiden effort.

While Laurent went close, talisman Thomas went one better. The wideman managed to equal his tally for the whole of last season with a smart finish on the stroke of half time.

Pools’ top scorer gave a flash of his new-found fox in the box instinct by reacting quickest when a Lewis Hawkins effort was turned away excellently by the unlucky Christian Walton in the Town goal.

Having edged the opening 45, Pools started where they left off after the interval, with Thomas again at the centre of the action.

His shot, from the edge of the area, was blocked, then soon after Amond hit the post with a rasping effort from 18 yards as Hignett’s men went in search of a second.

That quest was halted in its tracks in the 56th minute though, when Featherstone, a leader to that point, went in over the top on Olly Lee. Referee Seb Stockbridge quickly went to his back pocket and there were few complaints as the skipper trudged off.

Within minutes of Pools dropping to 10, Luton had a sight of goal. Jack Marriott, five yards from goal, had to score but managed to hit over the top. It was a let off.

Two minutes later a top class piece of defending by Richards. The full-back got a head on a Mpanzu strike, diverting the goal-bound effort on to the post.

With the pressure building from the visitors Pools finally cracked with 12 to go. Laurent brought down Alex Gilliead needlessly on the edge of the area and Sheehan stepped up to curl expertly over the Pools’ wall and into Carson’s left-hand corner.

Thomas clipped the bar with a curling strike from 25 yards but Pools had Nsiala to thank for the point late on as the defender blocked from Marriott with the goal gaping.

It hurt to lose two points last night. But time is a great healer.

And when all is told at the end of the season, this one will no doubt be looked back on as a positive night. Just as the Plymouth point, which on reflection is looking better and better by the day.