MATCH REPORT: Pools need to do themselves justice

Coventry City take the lead during the game against Pools. Picture by FRANK REID
Coventry City take the lead during the game against Pools. Picture by FRANK REID
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HAD the apparent injustice occurred in the dying embers of injury-time, then sympathy for Pools would be somewhat amplified.

It did not.

Instead, Pools were left with more than an hour to right what they felt was the wrong of referee Fred Graham.

There were 33 minutes on the clock when skipper Peter Hartley, having worked his body into a ball-winning position, was thrown off balance by what, on first viewing at least, appeared the illegal intervention of Cody McDonald.

Those of a Pools persuasion waited for the din of the referee’s whistle.

It did not sound and McDonald skipped gleefully clear, completing his steal with a low smash into the bottom corner.

Replays, however, are somewhat inconclusive, leaning slightly towards the skill of the striker in rolling his pursuer.

But in fitting football parlance, “you’ve seen them given”.

Manager John Hughes certainly felt so.

He took his frustration into the officials’ changing-room at half-time and was duly ordered to the stands for the second period.

However, from his new, lofty vantage, Hughes would surely have hoped to have seen more from his men.

For with an entire half to regroup and set about implementing their own form of justice, Pools were meek.

They were not the wounded animal in search of revenge.

Instead, a tame affair drifted toward an inevitable outcome.

For not once in the wake of McDonald’s goal did Pools ever look like drawing parity.

All of their best work, and there had been some, was confined to the minutes prior.

It is six hours without a goal and in the previous two away matches - at Doncaster and now at Coventry – the home goalkeepers have not been drawn into a save of note.

The verve and tenacity of the seven-match unbeaten run has faded.

Whereas Hughes felt all of his players were operating within the “zone” during that period, too many are now existing on the periphery.

It is starting to spread.

The attacking threat is now all but non-existent.

On Saturday, the closest Pools came to scoring was a pair of early headers from defenders Sam Collins and Hartley.

And they had started well enough, aided by the home side’s lethargy it must be said.

But following McDonald’s controversial strike, Pools, much like the hosts, toiled toward the full-time whistle, for it was an uninspiring affair.

So much more is needed in the final third if Pools are to escape relegation.

Charlie Wyke, having matured into a power-packed yet fleet-footed frontman during February’s revival, has reverted to a rookie loanee.

But he needs help from others.

Jonathan Franks and James Poole are not bouncing off their offensive comrade in the manner which had been terrifying opposition defenders, while the support from midfield has dried up.

At the back they continue to satisfy their end of the bargain – one goal conceded in three matches – but they, too, must lend a hand at the opposite end of the park.

For all of the worry at Pools’ lack of cutting edge, however, the margin to safety has in fact narrowed during their scoreless stretch.

Six points is the distance to fifth-from-bottom Scunthorpe United.

Tomorrow Pools face Oldham Athletic, just one place and four points clear of them in the drop zone.

There is time to save the season.

They may have wasted an hour at the weekend in the wake of what they believed to be a refereeing injustice.

But that cannot be used as excuse come the the final reckoning.

It’s time for Pools to do themselves justice.