MATCH REPORT: Same old story for Pools

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NEW year, old habits.

And just when some had dared to dream that the dawn of 2013 was about to herald an upturn in fortunes.

A first victory in four months three days earlier – at league leaders Sheffield United nevertheless – had been the cause of such optimism.

Preston, yesterday’s opponents, were without a win since the beginning of November.

Whilst Pools were valiantly battling towards their Bramall Lane triumph, Graham Westley’s side were being thumped 3-0 in their own back yard.

This then, surely, was the chance for Pools to end their 10-game wait for a home success, the chance to claw back yet more ground in their bid for safety.

Winning away at the table toppers? Anything must now be possible?

Instead, Pools reverted to type, the type of side which last month set a new club record for consecutive matches without a win, 22 to be exact.

For while there was the odd passage of pressure, it was not until the 92nd minute that visiting goalkeeper Steve Simonsen was forced in to a save of note.

Pools had waded their way through the second half, evidently leg-weary given their South Yorkshire exertions - that can be their only mitigation.

For make no doubt about it, this was a disappointing performance.

If Pools are serious about escaping their most perilous of positions then yesterday had to end in victory.

That it did not almost renders their weekend win academic.

Deflated - that was the over-riding emotion of Scott Flinders when he came to reflect on the game, for he knew this was an opportunity to build momentum.

It was a feeling shared by supporters, their earlier optimism dashed during a lethargic 90 minutes.

The opening period saw spells of Pools dominance and Jordan Richards and Evan Horwood, the full-backs, again provided a threat down the flanks.

This time, however, their crosses went without takers.

Tony Sweeney did find himself in on goal but appeared to be flustered by the swirling wind, not taking a direct route to the posts and ultimately seeing his shot deflected wide.

Steve Howard, scorer of two against The Blades, did threaten to steal on to a teasing Richards delivery but was denied by the out-stretched boot of a defender.

And that, until second-half stoppage time, was as close as Pools came.

As the sedate opening period approached its conclusion, it eventually came to life.

Peter Hartley tripped Stuart Beavon inside the area – penalty.

Flinders, faced with former Barnsley team-mate Nicky Wroe, read the direction of the effort, later claiming the taker’s body language had betrayed his intention.

It was a fine save, the sort which should have inspired the hosts.

Within five minutes, however, Pools were trailing.

Simon Walton lost possession, leading to the needless concession of a corner-kick.

It was hung to the far post, Flinders elected to stay on his line, Ritchie Humphreys lost track of John Mousinho and he headed through the legs of the unsighted gloveman.

Still, though, 45 minutes remained to retrieve the result, for the visitors had offered little save for their penalty miss and goal.

But the second period was tedious, the entirety of which was played at a reduced pace.

Charlie Wyke and Jon Franks had been outstanding at Bramall Lane but their spark was sadly lacking this time.

Humphreys faded, Sweeney huffed and puffed, whilst Steve Howard endured the sort of frustrating afternoon which have become the norm for him this season.

No-one played particularly poorly, it was simply a lacklustre display in keeping with the narrative of the campaign to date.

There was an injury-time revival, during which Luke James stung the palms of Simonsen and Howard caused a nuisance of himself amid a goalmouth scramble, but it was all too late.

By this point the outcome of the contest had an air of inevitability about it.

How many times have we said that this season?

New year, old habits.