MATCH REPORT: Toothless Pools need Eye Of The Tiger

Jonathan Franks against Yeovil .Picture by FRANK REID

Jonathan Franks against Yeovil .Picture by FRANK REID

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PERHAPS the irony of his words were lost, or maybe not.

“We need the Eye Of The Tiger” roared John Hughes, evidently angered at an opportunity spurned.

Through gritted teeth and with a snarl which laid bare his frustration, he was demanding more from his players.

How apt, then, he chose to reference that song as a source of inspiration – for the name of the band? Survivor.

Hughes has an unwavering loyalty to his players, if a question is pointed toward criticism he will counter with a positive response.

It is a policy of protection which has gained the trust of the dressing-room.

But, at tea-time on Saturday, the Scot was irked.

He had, privately, just moments earlier let his feelings be known to those who had laboured through yet another 90 minutes, never truly threatening to win the contest.

Yes, results elsewhere had proved kind and ground was gained in the quest for safer terrain, but Pools have lost something of late and the manager knows it.

Dare we say it, a few of them are lacking “the thrill of the fight”.

They were certainly without punch in the final third.

For a trio who were lavished with such fulsome praise in the wake of their demolition of Crewe Alexandra two weeks ago, Jon Franks, James Poole and Charlie Wyke were ineffective bordering on anonymous.

Wyke, in particular, was strangely subdued, out-fought throughout by minder Dan Burn, the former Darlington centre-back.

Franks, too, was frustratingly quiet, nothing of his doing worthy of notebook entry.

Poole, at least, registered efforts on goal and was unfortunate to be the first of the frontmen to be hooked – his body language when withdrawn suggested he, too, was somewhat surprised.

Twice in the first half he went close, skidding a low drive narrowly wide of the post before testing Marek Stech with a cute curler from range.

Ritchie Humphreys sent an audacious shot zipping wide of the top corner just before the break and there, until a late Tony Sweeney chance, ended the offensive efforts.

Stech was not called into action until Sweeney, on the pitch for less than two minutes, was sprung clear by Humphreys.

The substitute, however, never looked a likely scorer and Stech’s boot diverted wide.

It had been a largely insipid attacking performance from Pools and, in the end, they were fortunate to emerge with what could yet prove a valuable point.

The pitch had not aided their cause and its continued use by non-league Gateshead must surely be of concern to Hughes, such is his desire for free-flowing, fluid football.

Nathan Luscombe, handed his first start of the season, had suffered amid the mud and, for a player who boasts the ability to unlock defences, it says much that his best contributions were sliding tackles.

Hughes had hoped for more from the midfielder, declaring pre-match he would be given a starting jersey.

With today’s news that Jack Baldwin could be sidelined for the remainder of the season, Luscombe has a chance for prolonged involvement.

More, however, will be needed for that to be the case.

Others, notably the front three, should keep their place for tomorrow’s trip to Oldham Athletic, but they, too, must emerge from what has been a three-match malaise.

For it is nearly five hours since Pools last located the back of the net.

Hughes concedes he is far from spoilt when it comes to avenues for change and has hinted that the likes of Sweeney, Steve Howard, Andy Monkhouse and Luke James will remain in reserve.

As ever, he will draw on the positives when it comes to preparing his side for the mammoth clash at Boundary Park.

It doesn’t come any bigger than this – third-bottom versus fourth-bottom with just nine matches remaining.

On Saturday, Hughes delivered his private blast followed by the public plea for renewed focus.

Tomorrow, they must rise up to the challenge of their rivals.