RICHARD MENNEAR’S ANALYSIS: No light at the end of black tunnel for Hartlepool

Burton Albion .v. Hartlepool''Phil Edwards
Burton Albion .v. Hartlepool''Phil Edwards
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NO fight. No character. No hope.

It makes you wonder why anybody would actually want the Hartlepool United manager’s job.

Defeat to Burton Albion – the 14th in the league this campaign – leaves Pools with a goal difference of -24 and just 12 points from 20 games.

This side will be lucky to get 20 points never mind the 50/51 usually needed to stay up from the remaining 26 matches.

They are going to have to win at least 10 matches, with several draws thrown as well – that is promotion form.

Somehow the gap to safety remains six points but the other sides have started picking up wins, Tranmere Rovers managed to climb above second-bottom Carlisle United.

It is a grim situation.

Experienced manager Ronnie Moore was watching on and is now firm favourite to be installed as the club’s third manager of the season.

I hope he brings his magic wand with him.

Lacking leaders, character, guts, creativity, the ability to score and defend - this team is lacking a lot.

On Saturday it was the same old script.

For 44 minutes Sam Collins’ side had matched Jimmy Floyd’s Hasselbaink’s Brewers and looked to have bounced back from the Blyth Spartans defeat.

Yet as soon as Albion started to build some pressure the inevitable happened.

Defeat.

Mind, Pools surpassed themselves second-half.

Within 22 seconds of the re-start Alex MacDonald – who opened the scoring just before the break – had grabbed Burton’s second.

Some of the Pools coaching staff hadn’t even made their way out of the dressing room before the goal went in and the players may as well have stayed inside because they never got going second half, again caving in.

It left some of the travelling fans chanting “we want our money back” come the end.

They are watching their side slowly slip into the Conference with little fight.

An appointment is expected early this week and they will have to work wonders with the current crop.

Before the January transfer window opens on the 1st, free signings are the only option but as we’ve found there is usually a reason why they are on a free.

Next up is Oxford United at home before the busy period of games against Mansfield Town Boxing Day and Morecambe two days later.

Pools need two wins just to close the gap to second bottom and the new manager will hope that gap doesn’t widen before they have chance to add to the squad.

After all, who would want to sign?

Caretaker boss Sam Collins made four changes with Jack Compton, Jordan Richards, Darren Holden and Matty Dolan all in.

It was no surprise to see Matteo Lanzoni dropped, while Scott Fenwick was among the subs after being cup tied against Spartans.

Pools broke with purpose in the 7th minute, Dolan sweeping the ball out wide to the onrushing Holden.

Holden, who had continued his run, eventually got the ball back from Brad Walker but couldn’t get a shot away inside the area.

Captain Scott Flinders then had to be alert, a Phil Edwards cross deflected off Holden’s and looped high in the air towards the near post, the stopper in the right position to claim the ball.

The first attempt on target came in the 20th minute.

Stuart Beavon swivelled inside the area but his powerful shot was straight towards Flinders.

Dolan then saw a whipped free-kick from 25-yards fly just wide of the right-hand post before Hartlepool-born Bryn Morris’s low effort was easily saved.

Pools had matched the home side for large periods but their class slowly began to shine through.

Robbie Weir unleashed a half-volley inches wide in the 37th minute as the Brewers cranked up the pressure.

The breakthrough goal came on the 45 minute mark.

Matthew Bates got into a right mess trying to clear a header on the edge of the area bundling his way into Richards.

MacDonald picked the loose ball up, cut inside the penalty area and curled a lovely effort past the diving Flinders, off the post and in.

The second just summed up Pools’ season.

Within 22 seconds of the re-start the Brewers were 2-0 up.

Jacob Blyth beat Austin far too easily in the air, MacDonald picked it up and skipped past Bates – who didn’t even flinch – to finish past Flinders from 12-yards.

It was shambolic and fired up Burton could smell blood.

They had two other good chances to extend their lead quickly after – Morris shooting wide from distance before Edwards screwed a shot from close range.

Pools were on the ropes and showed no fight to get back into the contest.

Collins wasn’t wasting any time making his subs, Michael Woods on at half-time for Compton and in the 63rd minute Harewood was hooked for Scott Fenwick.

Two minutes later and it was 3-0.

Beavon fizzed in a shot which Flinders did well to get a finger-tip to and turn it round the post.

From the corner, Morris whipped the ball into the near post towards Shane Cansdell-Sherriff who flicked his header past the outstretched arms of Flinders.

It was grim viewing and on the 69 minute mark it was 4-0.

Beavon worked an opening for himself inside the area before finishing coolly.

Game. Set. Match.

A late Matthew Palmer free-kick was tipped over as the home side looked to cap their comfortable win with a fifth.

Thankfully for Pools, Hasselbaink took the opportunity to bring off Beavon and MacDonald. Their work was done.

Sadly Pools look done for too.

There appears to be no light at the end of an ever increasing black tunnel of despair.