ROY KELLY ANALYSIS: Back to the bad old days for Hartlepool so quickly

Ryan Bird heads Newport ahead
Ryan Bird heads Newport ahead
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Seven days. Just seven days.

That is all it took for Hartlepool United to come crashing back down to earth.

More than one player’s touch went as far as this reporter can kick it.

Having seen off Stevenage 2-0 in the afterglow of the appointment of Dave Jones, Pools appeared to be on cloud nine again.

How wrong we were.

A week after marvelling at the hunger, determination, never-say-die spirit and a bit of football, it was back to the bad old days at Newport County where Pools sank without trace in the quicksand.

The Football League’s worst team sorted out Pools good and proper.

Between Lewis Alessandra’s hopeful seventh-minute shot to sub Padraig Amond’s consolation goal in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time, Pools did not muster a single attempt on target.

It was a depressing afternoon as the old frailties, physical and mental, were exposed.

True, there were mitigating factors, notably the fact the game was played on what could be best describe as sludge, a mix of mud, sand, water and a few blades of grass. It was as though a patch of Rift House Rec had been transported to Rodney Parade for those of you Poolies who might be struggling to comprehend the scene.

More than one player’s touch went as far as this reporter can kick it, but for all we can moan about the state of the surface, the fact of the matter is that the Welsh side were able to score three times.

They were, of course, familiar with the terrain and knew a no-frills, no-skills philosophy was what was required.

To be fair to Newport, this was not Wimbledon or Watford of the 1980s, but they had the right idea, get the ball up near the away box and play for corners or throw-ins.

It was a policy which served them well, translating three of Craig Reid’s eight corners into goals.

There are days to play football and days just to hit and hope and this was just one such occasion.

Perhaps, given the state of the pitch, and given it’s week one of his tenure, Jones will draw a line under this, not that he won’t expect a reaction this weekend against Yeovil, he will and will want to see the sort of display he witnessed on his first Saturday at the Northern Gas & Power Arena.

The irony about the day out at Newport was that it was County, without a home win since mid-November, who looked all at sea in the opening exchanges.

Pools won a corner inside the first minute, which was badly overhit by Lewis Alessandra.

The forward soon had an effort at goal collected by keeper Joe Day, as the hosts began like a side struggling at the foot of the league.

But County, who had the considerable presence of ex-Pools Great Escape loan striker, Ryan Bird, and Aaron Williams up top, backed up by Reid, soon found their feet, so to speak, but Adam Bartlett dealt with their early threat.

However, we got a taste of what was to come when Brad Walker got their first corner clear, but there was to be no relief from their second.

Reid floated it in from the right and Bird met it sweetly to head in from just inside the six-yard box. Pools, naively perhaps, tried to play and got nowhere.

Two instances stood out.

First, in the 21st minute they had loads up in attack and tried to pass their way through from the edge of the box and lost the ball.

And, 20 minutes later, Liam Donnelly brought possession away nicely down the right. With three Pools players making forward runs, it was screaming out for a ball over the top.

Instead, he stopped, played a short pass to Nicky Featherstone, but the ball got stuck and he was forced to find Matthew Bates whose backpass to Bartlett was kicked out of play.

There were a couple of encouraging moments when Lewis Hawkins got a decent cross in which Rhys Oates looped over Day’s bar and Sean Kavanagh shot over from outside the box, but at least Pools were improving.

Oates toiled hard up front and he was almost rewarded for his running five minutes after the break when he seemed to be on the end of a Donnely through ball but Mark O’Brien made a tremendous tackle.

But the game was effectively up in the 56th minute, via another corner. If you have not seen this on TV, don’t!

Reid, who else, chipped the ball in and Newport twice headed it towards goal with barely a challenge from the away ‘markers’ where Williams somehow nodded in from around 12 inches, despite having four away players within a yard of him.

Granted County had a height advantage but while Pools hardly have a ‘Land of the Giants’ cast, nor are they candidates for the ‘Seven Dwarfs’. There is no excuse for not making some form of challenge or block.

Newport were not finished and this time Dan Butler’s goal came from the boot not the head, though it did stem from a corner.

Pools cleared the 71st minute corner to the edge of the area where the left-wingback was afforded the time and space to fire home a beauty with his left peg.

With 20 minutes left there was a danger it could get embarrassing but, thankfully, Pools survived another two corners.

There was some moments of promise involving Walker and subs Connor Smith and Amond though no goals.

However, those of the magnificent 103 Poolies who made the trek to South Wales who remained until Kevin Johnson’s final whistle did get to see an away goal.

Smith began the move which saw Kavanagh swing over a perfect cross for Amond to convert with his right foot.