HARTLEPOOL United boss Ronnie Moore was left angry that his “lacklustre” side were bullied into defeat by Stevenage.
Moore had his head in his hands after watching Pools miss the opportunity to close the gap to safety with a fourth straight home win at Victoria Park.
Instead, he witnessed a poor display from his side with Marvin Morgan and Marlon Harewood, in particular, having a bad day at the office.
The 3-1 defeat, a comfortable away win in the end for Graham Westley’s side, left Pools seven points adrift.
Moore told SportMail: “This was the biggest game we have had for a long, long time.
“No doubt about it, I hadn’t said that to the players beforehand but I knew it and they would have known it too.
“Yet they produce such a lacklustre performance, I wouldn’t say gutless but it wasn’t far off.
“If we had produced the blood, sweat and tears-type performance then we’d have had half a chance.
“You have to be physically strong [to beat Stevenage] and if you do that, you win the game.
“We have better individuals than them and I can’t say that too often.
“I know we can do an awful lot better and it’s so disappointing.
“But we were bullied physically out there.
“We have four lads over six foot and the strikers never won a header first-half, second half we didn’t dominate enough at the back.”
While Pools had won their previous three matches on home soil, they have struggled to win games back-to-back meaning they have been unable to reduce the points gap below six points.
Moore added: “It is frustrating for me and for everyone associated with the club that we have not been able to bridge that gap.
“The players need to be feeling the same thing, we put them out on the pitch but we can’t seem to get over that little hurdle.
“We were going for our fourth home win on the trot, that would have been fantastic and closed the gap.
“I don’t say I have all the answers but I look at them and think how the hell can they go and perform like that, when they know how important it was for everybody associated with the club?
“That is the annoying thing.
“I just thought they were more physical in the right areas and caused us problems because of it.”
Moore said he “felt” for Michael Woods and Aaron Tshibola in the centre of midfield as the ball bypassed them for much of the game.
He added: “We had prepared and knew what to expect but our tempo wasn’t quick enough and Stevenage like that.
“They take their time over throw ins, free kicks etc and if they had got a 0-0 they would have been happy.
“The ball had a headache at half-time, it needed an Asprin, and we need to compete in those situations.
“We can be strong, we can adapt and have options, but this gave me a shock.
“Let’s put this down to an off-day.”
- RICHARD MENNEAR