Prospective managers watch Hartlepool Utd lose again to Tranmere Rovers

Tranmere Rovers score their first goal from the penalty spot. Picture by FRANK REID

Tranmere Rovers score their first goal from the penalty spot. Picture by FRANK REID

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THE narrative may occasionally alter, but the ending remains the same.

Pools perform poorly, they lose.

They perform in patches, they still lose.

They perform well, nothing.

Last night – with prospective managers watching on – it was, at least, the latter of those scenarios.

Hope perhaps that, for Phil Brown, Craig Short, Colin Cooper or whoever it may be, inheritance of this confidence-shorn group is not necessarily a legacy destined for disaster.

The aforementioned trio were in the stands at Victoria Park.

They, along with others, are among those vying for the vacant managerial position, interviews taking place on Tyneside right now.

The three, interestingly, were all defenders in their playing days.

Last night, however, it was matters at the other end of the park which proved Pools’ undoing - and not for the first time we hasten to add, despite the well-documented defensive travails.

Forget about Peter Hartley’s senseless concession of a penalty 11 minutes from the end, from which Andy Robinson opened the scoring, or even Tranmere’s stoppage-time second, this game was lost in the action which preceded that late double.

On reflection, the best Pools could have probably salvaged was a goalless draw.

For, despite periods of offensive dominance, you never truly believed the breakthrough goal would belong to the hosts.

Pools have scored seven times from 14 hours at the Vic this term.

They have, as both caretaker boss Micky Barron and winger Jonathan Franks agreed afterwards, “no cutting edge”.

It is a bluntness which was all too evident, regardless of their improved effort.

Promising positions are crafted only for crosses, passes or shots to wind up wide or wayward.

Even the decent deliveries drift by without any takers.

They mustered just one noteworthy effort on target, Franks scampering clear with the game deadlocked just after half-time, only to see Owain Fon Williams shovel clear his well-connected but poorly-directed blast.

And so the inevitable occurred - the twist in the tale which no longer surprises.

A headstrong Hartley charged to close James Wallace on the fringe of the area.

The visiting skipper, cutely, stepped inside the box before accepting the defender’s stray leg.

Penalty. 1-0.

The game was stretched by the time Cole Stockton hammered a second into the bottom corner, but it had a familiar feel.

Defeat. Another.

The crowd’s reaction on full-time perhaps told a story not best portrayed in the words above, for the spirit and commitment was commendable.

Yes, it could not have been worse than Saturday’s degrading defeat at Chesterfield, but their response nonetheless deserves applause, and at the end it got just that.

To a man almost Pools were better.

Neil Austin was strong, uncomplicated and tidy at the back.

Simon Walton and Paul Murray set a combative tone in the first half, the former enjoying his best 45 minutes of the season.

Franks, after an inhibited start, grew in confidence and was a threat.

James Poole possessed a little more purpose and Antony Sweeney was again lively.

Together, however, they are yet to click, hence their lowly position.

They do not score goals.

They do not keep clean sheets.

For any of those candidates set to go before chairman Ken Hodcroft today, the previous two statements will surely rank highly when it comes to answers for the “where are we going wrong?” interrogation.

Whoever emerges as the club’s choice, they face an almighty challenge.

It will be their job to alter what has become a painfully predictable ending.