Close but not close enough.
That was the story of Hartlepool United’s 2-0 home defeat to Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday.
Pools had the better of the possession stakes and the greater number of corners, but the Chairboys were ahead in the only stat that mattered – scoring more goals.
The home team lost for the first time in six matches at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium after being sunk by fine goals from Adebayo Akinfenwa and the man who replaced him, Paris Cowan-Hall, the sub adding the second in the last minute of normal time.
Pools midfielder Lewis Alessandra admitted there was frustration in the blue corner that their run at the Vic was over, but says they could have no complaints over the outcome.
“You’d have to say it was a fair result because they put the ball in the back of our net, twice,” said the 28-year-old.
“It was a game I thought we could have got something from.
“We knew where their threat was going to come from but I thought we dealt with Akinfenwa really well the majority of the game, apart from the one that mattered when he was free in front of our goal 10 yards out and he put the ball in.
“They are a decent side with a decent manager in Gareth Ainsworth and they always seem to be there or thereabouts [in the promotion picture].
“They dropped off a little bit recently but they are a good side who play to their strengths and they have a bit of quality as well.
“We knew it was going to be a tough test and obviously we wanted to keep our run going at home.
“It wasn’t to be and we now need to re-group and go again and get another run going here.”
Alessandra was one of the side’s brightest attacking lights.
He started in a more advanced role, having featured primarily in midfield of late.
The former Plymouth and Rochdale forward led the best of the home attacks but Pools could not translate promise and pressure into goals.
“That was lacking,” he admitted. “We got into the final third a few times but the last ball just wasn’t there.
“It was hard – Wycombe had two very big centre-halves and when they lost one they brought on one just as big! They won so much and they had a 6ft 6in keeper who came and got everything. But that final ball, last touch seemed to let us down.
“There was that time in the second half which seemed to sum up our day – we broke on them and I laid it towards Podge [Amond] and Woodsy and the touch just let us down. It wasn’t to be, it just wasn’t our day.”
It was a day of almosts from Nathan Thomas, who beat his marker several times but the end-product did mot always match the approach play.
“You know what’s coming from Nath, you know he likes to get at his man,” said Alessandra, who looks set to return to midfield for Saturday’s trip to Blackpool.
“I’m sure he’d agree it wasn’t one of his better games.
“But he’s been out a while.
“I have every faith in him and I’m sure he’ll be back very soon to his best form and doing what he does, beating men and creating and scoring goals.”
Alessandra did not look for any excuses for the defeat and did not feel it had anything to do with the side being unable to raise themselves after putting in so much effort and emotion into Tuesday night’s 1-0 victory at Cambridge.
“I don’t think so,” he told SportMail. “We’ve had a lot of Saturday, Tuesday, Saturdays anyway, so we are used to it.
“I think the fact our squad is paper thin does not help.
“We have a lot of young, inexperienced players.
“I am classed as one of the old, experienced heads in the team even if I don’t feel that old. I’ve not long only turned 28.
“It was disappointing for everyone but we’ll go again.”