MATCH REPORT: John Hughes should have just one goal this summer

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HARTLEPOOL United’s players believe they have been let down.

And, casting aside opinion on their catastrophic efforts this term, it is plausible to accept such feeling.

The source of their upset is the repeated failure of successive managers to sign a goalscorer.

For the first time, one player, Andy Monkhouse, has chosen to make public his frustration.

“I can’t remember the last time we had a striker who scored 15 to 20 goals a season,” he said in the aftermath of another predictable reverse, one which all but expires the club’s League One status.

“I don’t know the reason why we haven’t signed a centre-forward.”

It was an honest – some would argue obvious – reflection.

Nonetheless, credit to him.

Others have privately voiced similar dismay.

“We keep saying amongst ourselves how desperate we’ve been for someone to come in and just score some goals and take the pressure off,” one long-serving member recently put.

Their point is valid.

Chris Turner resigned Adam Boyd.

Mick Wadsworth brought Colin Nish to English football.

Neale Cooper splashed the bulk of his summer budget on Steve Howard.

While Boyd had his moments second time around, the latter pair bagged just seven between them before being allowed to leave on loan.

Indeed, they are both still on the books at Victoria Park, a damning indictment of their contribution given the current struggle in front of goal.

Twelve hours – half a day - without score is the current count.

But the onset of drought is hardly of surprise.

Pools have been dry for the best part of four seasons, repeatedly enduring scoreless stretches which have disrupted the flow of a campaign, the culmination of which will be relegation.

For goals are not the only thing to have run dry, talk of survival is now barely mentioned.

In its place are words such as “pride” and “giving it our best shot”, for amid this horrendous run hope has faded.

The numbers read eight points from safety with just 12 left to play for.

Defeat at home to Bury this Saturday would, in all likelihood, confirm demotion.

Victory yesterday might have renewed optimism, but it was perhaps foolish to expect anything other than defeat.

We have long since talked of an “inevitability” to Pools’ performances.

Yesterday, as Monkhouse himself offered, encapsulated the shortcomings of the entire season.

Namely, work the ball into positions of promise without ever truly threatening to score before a soft concession at the other end leaves them predictably pointless.

And Stevenage, it must be said, were as average an outfit as Pools have faced in their eight-match quest for a net-ripple.

During the first half it was the visitors who shaded the best of what were, admittedly, limited openings.

Charlie Wyke, offering a lot more than of late, was unfortunate to see a shot-on-the-turn become locked between the legs of a relieved Steve Arnold in the home goal.

Darren Holden then blazed over the crossbar from range as Pools raised momentary hope of that elusive goal.

But with each passing second you bare witness to the slumping of shoulders, the agitated increase of anxiety, for belief has been drained in recent weeks.

The hosts improved after the goalless first half - they could not be any worse – and should have taken the lead when the unattended pair of Marcus Haber and Mark Roberts comically collided when trying to reach a far-post cross, greed their ultimate undoing.

Pools came again, in large part thanks to the introduction of livewire forward Luke James.

He whistled one low shot inches wide of the upright before seeing an enticing cross skid through the goalmouth without any takers – the domain of a centre-forward you may well argue.

But then, as expected, came the game’s deciding moment.

The outstanding Luke Freeman jinked by three visiting shirts before rolling to Filipe Morais.

His effort from 20 yards was anything but crisp and a scruffy deflection took the ball into the path of Max Ehmer who leathered home.

The absence of a challenge on Freeman and the sluggish reaction to the ricochet would have disappointed manager John Hughes.

But his chief concern is at the other end of the park.

History quite clearly points to where his predecessors have failed – and his players are now openly airing their views on the subject.

He knows what his goal must be.