Hartlepool just can’t shake this bad habit

Carlisle's Michael Raynes heads home his side's winning goal

Carlisle's Michael Raynes heads home his side's winning goal

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Hartlepool United have managed to pick up some fantastic habits so far this season.

Week-in, week-out they are entertaining.

For every good habit they have picked up, and there are many, there is one bad one which they just cannot shake.

It’s fair to say they are one of the best teams to watch in the division under Craig Hignett, whose first nature is always to attack.

They score goals.

Without fail, Pools always threaten. They look capable of scoring against anyone, especially away from home.

They rise to the occasion.

No matter who they are playing Pools give as good as they get. Pitch them against any team in League Two and on any given day Hignett’s men are capable of playing them off the park.

But for every good habit they have picked up, and there are many, there is one bad one which they just cannot shake.

Pools just don’t seem to be able to win games that are there for the taking.

And sadly, if they don’t stop dropping points, which they have done on countless occasions in recent weeks, they might stupidly end up looking over their shoulders at the teams at the bottom, when really they should have their eyes on those fighting it out in the promotion race.

Saturday was the prime example of that. Going to Carlisle, who are now unbeaten in 13 fourth tier games, was never going to be easy. But from the way Pools, on their own six game run without a loss, started you would never have guessed who went into this clash in third place and who was 14th.

The visitors, as they have done at so many away venues this season, took to Brunton Park as if it was their own.

Josh Laurent was seeing plenty of ball, pulling the strings and finding pockets of space in which to operate. Lewis Hawkins was roaming, winning tackles and even causing problems in the opposition area. In the opening exchanges Nathan Thomas was firing shots in from all angles and making a nuisance of himself. Lewis Alessandra, fresh from his maiden Pools strike against Crawley last week, was again a man full of confidence, using his pace in behind and intelligence to outfox both full-backs and centre-backs with his clever faints and runs. Even Jake Carroll was allowed the freedom to join in at every opportunity, providing another line of attacking down Carlisle’s right-hand side.

But despite their dominance Pools allowed their own Achilles heal to rear it’s head again - a lack of concentration.

One chance clearance down the right, in which Jordan Richards was caught napping, a cross and a finish from Jabo Ibehre, who was allowed time and space by Toto Nsiala, later and all of the early good work by Pools was undone.

As big a blow as the goal was, it didn’t stop Pools starting where they left off. They continued to have the better of the play, if without really causing too many problems for Mark Gillespie in the Cumbrians’ goal.

Four minutes before the break the clinical Blues almost had a second - a free-kick was headed clear by Nsiala, but it dropped to Shaun Miller on the edge of the area. The forward snapped at the effort and the powerful drive rose high over Carson’s bar.

After the break Pools had the returning Trevor Carson, back into the starting XI alongside Liam Donnelly after international duty with Northern Ireland, to thank for preventing the deficit increasing to two. He made yet another of his now customary jaw-dropping saves.

A ball in from the right found Jason Kennedy at the far post and from point blank range, somehow Carson managed to block. Ibehre smashed the rebound over.

Then shortly before the hour the game burst into life. And it was a moment of madness from Miller that allowed Pools an avenue back into the clash. The striker needlessly handled the ball and gave ref Darren Bond no option but to send him to the stands.

Pools, a man to the good, were in no mood to look a gifthorse in the mouth. Within minutes they were level.

On 65 Alessandra reacted quickest in a crowded area to smash into the top right-hand corner of Mark Gillespie’s net.

Back in it, and absolutely dominant, surely there would be only one winner now.

Well, no. Not quite. Pools’ joy was short lived as within the blink of an eye Danny Grainger was teed up from a needless free-kick, given away by Scott Harrison, and hammered in from 30 yards.

Hignett’s men were level again though on 75 when Alessandra then turned provider, squaring for Amond to net from six yards.

Surely they’d learned their lesson? Well, again, no they hadn’t. With 11 minutes remaining a corner from the left was nodded in by Michael Raynes, who was allowed a free jump after losing Nsiala.

And despite a rally, in which Billy Paynter saw an effort chalked off, that’s the way it stayed. As is becoming all too common of late, Pools, yet again, let points go begging from a game that was fully in their own grasp.