MATCH REPORT: Point made but it’s not nearly enough

SLIDING IN: Adam Reed (right) challenges Hartlepool's Evan Horwood.

SLIDING IN: Adam Reed (right) challenges Hartlepool's Evan Horwood.

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NOT so long ago, a goalless draw at Victoria Park might have provoked an impromptu lap of honour, supporters staying behind to laud their heroes.

Yes, it was that grim at the Vic as recently as three weeks ago, the defeat to Bournemouth marking a seventh on the spin on home soil.

That, then, there was so much dissatisfaction in light of last night’s stalemate, serves to highlight the progress achieved in such a short period.

Just last month, the notion of a four-match unbeaten run was something either confined to the history books or the prediction of a fantasist.

But four without defeat it is, yet the gloom remains.

Why?

Well, as John Hughes himself alluded to, this was a “chance missed”.

It was the result neither side wanted, especially not Pools, and one which, when the final reckoning comes, could see them both condemned to League Two.

Certainly, on the evidence of the majority of this largely uninspiring affair, it appears likely they will be renewing rivalries next term.

Pools’ performance was bookended by 10 minutes of promise, the intervening 70, however, sadly lacking in imagination, verve and tenacity.

If ever there was a night when Pools should have looked upon a draw with the contempt of defeat, then this was it.

Their opponents will be docked 10 points before the season is out and the club, it is said, have accepted their fate – that being the case, a “six-pointer” it was not.

It was a three-pointer, and nothing less should have done for Pools.

And so it is frustrating that, save for the decent start and late rally, they offered so little in-between.

Simon Walton, as good as he has been in recent weeks, masqueraded as a third centre-half, operating far too deep to influence any attacking play.

Walton did use the ball well, protecting it from his opponents, but no team has ever been awarded a goal for 10 passes inside their own half, and too often that happened.

There were, like Walton, decent performances all over the park.

Evan Horwood attacked with purpose, Sam Collins cruised through a faultless display and teenager Jack Baldwin gave yet another mature demonstration of his talents.

But Pools, as Hughes said, were missing the “magic”.

They were lacking the ingenuity, the desire, even, to go and slaughter opposition who had just suffered a club-record nine straight losses.

Baldwin, the man-of-the-match, said it was frustrating to play in.

Who knows what word a fan would conjure to describe their over-riding emotion, “frustration” perhaps being on the kinder side.

For they had turned out in good number on the back of a turnaround which had renewed hope of survival.

This was supposed to be the night when Pools finally clawed themselves clear of their lowly residence at the foot of League One.

But today they remain bottom of the pile, still some 11 points from safety with just 15 games to play.

It might have been different had referee Darren Bond awarded a 93rd-minute penalty after Sam Sodje handled inside the area, but Hughes conceded it would have been a soft concession.

He admitted, too, that to rely upon such a late twist of fortune was not preferable.

Hughes, it must be said, was honest in his assessment of this one.

When reflecting on chances he only did so with real vigour when talking of Baldwin’s one-man mission to salvage victory.

The 19-year-old had first burst through two defenders before smashing inches wide and then volleyed beyond the opposite post by the same margin just moments later.

That apart, Pools were restricted to half-chances at best.

The visitors had one or two openings and Hartlepool-born Adam Reed, on loan from Sunderland, could have won it when he danced into the area in the dying embers, only the out-stretched toe of Collins denying him a fine, solo effort.

Defeat would have been cruel on Pools, but it would have been forgivable had it come amid a valiant push for victory.

So when the final whistle did sound it was no surprise to hear a smattering of discontent.

For they, like Hughes, know that goalless draws with Portsmouth aren’t nearly enough at this juncture.