MATCH REPORT: New boss can still save Pools from relegation

Steve Howard in action during the 1-0 defeat to Yeovil Town. Picture by FRANK REID
Steve Howard in action during the 1-0 defeat to Yeovil Town. Picture by FRANK REID
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LETHARGY, disinterest, complacency – energy, determination, courage.

First half – second half.

Relegation – survival.

We will refrain from rolling out the oft used Doctor and Mr analogy, but that’s about the sum of it with Hartlepool United right now.

There does, however, remain one constant – defeat.

And that is of grave concern, for Pools are buried, six points under their nearest rivals, while it’s an alarming nine between themselves and the surface of safety.

But there are signs of life.

Fleeting, yes, but there is evidence of encouragement.

There has to be.

A new manager is set to be installed this week – Pools can only hope his arrival will reverse results.

The club’s hierarchy can ill afford to get this one wrong.

There is reason for optimism when glancing elsewhere in the division, Scunthorpe United, Bury and Bournemouth have all enjoyed a massive upturn in fortune since their recent change of boss.

Pools must take note of the situation at Bury, in particular.

Until last month’s meeting between the two clubs, The Shakers were the only side beneath Neale Cooper’s men.

Victory that night, however, signalled the onset of a five-match unbeaten run, four of which have culminated in victory.

The man responsible – Kevin Blackwell.

His secret – contacts, experience and motivation, he said so himself this weekend following their 2-0 win over Portsmouth.

Since arriving at Gigg Lane, the former Sheffield United chief has called in favours from his friends across the game, a raft of loan signings subsequently following him through the door at virtually no cost at all.

It has made all the difference, their quality and the rallying effect on a set of players previously destined for League Two has kickstarted their survival bid.

Pools – like Bury did – need a man with experience of the division, friends in high places and the persona to breathe fresh life into a club which has gone stale.

Phil Brown satisfies all of the above criteria.

The identity of the new man, however, remains to be seen.

Brown was in the stands last Wednesday as Pools went down to a 2-0 defeat against league leaders Tranmere Rovers.

Then, like on Saturday, they did at least defy the notion that they are a team already doomed to the drop.

They did not start like that, however.

In fact, the opening 45 minutes were about as uninspiring as it’s been all season.

The goal which ultimately proved the winner arrived after just seven minutes, Sam Foley afforded the freedom of the left flank to sweep a cross on to the boot of Joe Edwards and he prodded home at the near post.

Then on, until the break at least, Pools plodded through the motions of another inevitable loss, passes strayed, tackles lost and shots non existent.

The second half, though, bore no resemblance to that sorry showing.

James Poole at last unearthed a performance of purpose and vigour.

Antony Sweeney dragged the home rearguard from flag to flag and post to post, not allowing them a moment’s rest.

Steve Howard, previously static, caused problems of his own.

Yeovil were panicked.

Indeed, they barely made it out of their own half.

Poole went close with a pair of raspers from range, as did Simon Walton, Sweeney was denied a second headed goal in a week by the gloves of Marek Stech, while a penalty claim following a blatant handball was waved away.

Still, though, the outcome remains the same.

Can it be changed?

Ask chairmen, supporters and players of Bury, Bournemouth and Scunthorpe United and the suggestion would be yes.

Pools have to get their appointment right.

Lethargy, disinterest and complacency?

Or energy, determination and courage?

The new man will prove the deciding factor.