RICHARD MENNEAR’S MATCH ANALYSIS: Pools fans angry, disillusioned and worried

Pools players after Plymouth Argyle score their 1st goalPlymouth Argyle. Picture by FRANK REID

Pools players after Plymouth Argyle score their 1st goalPlymouth Argyle. Picture by FRANK REID

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IT says a lot when a 2-0 away defeat lacking in quality and cutting edge can be deemed an improvement.

Hartlepool United were so bad at Northampton Town in midweek that anything had to be better away to Plymouth Argyle on Saturday.

Overall the performance was better but in the end it was the same old story and one Pools fans are sick of reading.

Ahead of back-to-back home matches - starting with Portsmouth at Victoria Park this weekend - there is even talk of protests during the match.

Fans are angry and disillusioned but most of all worried.

l Angry about the lack of investment in the team and squad on the back of the sales of Jack Baldwin and Luke James.

l Disillusioned over the poor and inconsistent form that has dogged the club for too long now. Since the start of last season Pools have lost 49 per cent of league matches played. Nowhere near good enough.

l And worried that if things don’t improve quickly - while there is still time - that their club will plummet into non-league football.

That would be an absolute travesty and doesn’t bear thinking about.

Before the game fans were looking for two teams worse than Pools in the league, by teatime on Saturday night their side had slipped into the relegation zone.

Rivals Carlisle United are bottom and the sides play each other in a fortnight, an early season six-pointer if ever there was one.

Both are in the drop zone on merit having lost more matches than anyone else this season - six out of nine defeats.

Colin Cooper and owners IOR are coming under increasing pressure from disgruntled fans and it is easy to see why.

In the main, the current crop of players always give their all.

The problem is that, sadly, their all hasn’t been good enough this season and the squad is devoid of depth and quality when it comes to creating chances and putting the ball in the net.

At the weekend on-loan Boro striker Charlie Wyke was missing after being knocked unconscious against Northampton.

In came Marlon Harewood leaving Michael Woods as the only attacking option on the bench.

The squad is crying out for fresh blood to give those players some much-needed support.

The problem is Cooper doesn’t have many other options and fans won’t be happy until the constant talk of new (loan) signings becomes a reality.

In terms of positives? Well on-loan duo Scott Harrison and Wyke are set to stay for a further two months and both have impressed.

More is needed though.

Another striker, a creative midfield player and someone who will get a hold of things in the middle of the park and dictate play.

A nasty so-and-so who will rally the troops. Pools are lacking leaders.

On Saturday, the other change saw Jordan Richards in for Stuart Parnaby - out with a knee injury.

John Sheridan’s Plymouth side started well and Scott Flinders was twice called into making saves.

In the seventh minute, Argyle striker Reuben Reid twice had shots blocked, the ball breaking to Dominic Blizzard but his shot was well saved by Flinders.

Their early pressure paid off in the 14th minute.

Reid played in Marvin Morgan, who easily turned Richards before firing low across Flinders from 10 yards. Too easy.

Twenty minutes in there was a sight of goal for Pools.

A Ryan Brobbel corner was cut back to the edge of the penalty area but Walker lifted his effort over the bar.

It was then the winger’s turn but he couldn’t take advantage of a lay-off from Harewood. Brobbel - under pressure from former Pools defender Peter Hartley - scuffed his shot well-wide.

It was a pleasant day on the south west coast but the game was, at times, almost as flat as the home crowd.

It was Sheridan’s side though doing all of the pressing in the first half and creating the clearer opportunities.

Lewis Alessandra fired over before Reid - who went off at half-time with a hip injury - headed wide when he should have done better.

The defining moment came moments before half-time.

Harewood nodded in Franks for a one-on-one but Argyle keeper Luke McCormick spread himself well to deny a Pools equaliser with his right boot. It proved costly.

It was an improved showing after the break, with Pools enjoying more possession but crucially not doing anything with it.

A mis-kick from Hartley - who was then subbed with a thigh injury - let Pools in down the right-wing but Jack Compton couldn’t make the most of the ball to him, as his shot was saved.

Brobbel then had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down on the hour-mark, he looked to have been tugged down but nothing was given.

Woods came on for Franks but Pools failed to create any further chances of note - just Tommy Miller fizzing a shot over the bar.

Then came the sucker punch, on the counter attack, in the 77th minute.

Nathan Thomas, played in by Blizzard, ran through the middle of the defence before coolly finishing past Flinders to seal the win.

There was a hint of offside but the linesman was adamant Thomas was onside.

Darren Holden, who was waiting to come on before the goal, immediately entered the fray in place of Brobbel to the bafflement of the away fans.

Thomas was then denied a cheeky second thanks to a finger-tip save from the backpedaling Flinders who tipped over the lobbed effort from the edge of the area.

Alessandra had a late golden chance to make it three but dragged his shot wide.

Defeat capped a miserable week on the road for all those that made the mammoth journey.

Almost 1,200 miles travelled and not a single point to show for it.

Fans deserve better.