Roy Kelly’s Mail match report: Hartlepool United 3 Torquay United 0

OH YES: Marlon Harewood celebrates after scoring Pools third goal against Torquay United. Picture by FRANK REID
OH YES: Marlon Harewood celebrates after scoring Pools third goal against Torquay United. Picture by FRANK REID
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WHO was it who coined the phrase ‘a week is a long time in politics’?

This writer is not sure, but if you don’t mind I may substitute politics with the word football.

Last Saturday, Pools produced an abject, lifeless ‘effort’ against the club who had started the day at the bottom of the Football League.

Pools lost 2-0 at Northampton. Another potential banana-skin beckoned.

Don’t get me wrong, Saturday’s win over the division’s new basement outfit was not Brazil-like but it shows they can beat the scrappers.

It is something they must do again, and again, and again with games coming up at Wycombe (21st), Accrington (22nd) and at home to Bristol Rovers(17th).

And you could say a week is a long time for Marlon Harewood.

Seven days earlier the best kick he had at Northampton was when he wellied the away dugout in frustration after being substituted.

Fast forward to Victoria Park on Saturday, he left the pitch to the sort of feverish ovation you see at US presidential rallies.

Harewood lapped it up and who could blame him?

Eight games and no goals were the stats ahead of Saturday’s game.

And while it’s not in the league of Arsenal cult hero John Jensen who went 98 games without a goal for the Gunners, the much-travelled striker will be thrilled he’s finally found the net.

He certainly looked thrilled as he celebrated long and hard.

True, being a striker is more than just goals. He is a valued mentor to Luke James and provides a physical force up top.

But strikers are measured in one commodity: goals.

If Harewood gets more between now and May 3, Hartlepool United might just be there or thereabouts in the top seven.

The 34-year-old’s coolly-taken finish proved to be both the highlight of the afternoon and the killer goal.

Until then, Torquay had given as good as they got against a Pools team who, not surprisingly, still looked on the low side after the miserable events at Sixfields.

The Gulls saw as much of the ball as Pools and had more shots and corners, while Scott Flinders was kept very busy, especially in the first half as he made three vital saves, two at 0-0 and the third at 1-0.

Sam Collins and Christian Burgess also both earned their pay packets with the proverbial good shift in defence, Collins especially relishing his duel with fellow 30-something Enoch Showunmi.

There was little to choose between the two teams apart from in one vital facet – finishing.

All three Pools goals were out of the top drawer, Jack Barmby’s deadly left foot getting the opener, with the head of James providing the second before the 14-goal striker set Harewood away for his first in a blue and white.

Torquay could – and should – have been the first off the mark.

Anth O’Connor left Darren Holden for dead as he cut into the box from the right and launched a fierce left-foot shot Flinders saved superbly from.

The ball dropped to Elliot Benyon just yards out but he could not connect cleanly and Flinders gathered bravely, though the Torquay attacker connected several times with the home stopper.

Pools made the Gulls pay by going in front on the half-hour. The build-up play was good, with James and Harewood at the heart of it but it was a cross from Jordan Richards which found Barmby.

A bit of neat footwork created half a yard of space and that’s all he needed as the teenager fired high into keeper Mike Poke’s right-hand corner.

Despite going in front, Pools players still looked unconvinced.

Indeed, Torquay carried the greater threat and should have levelled two minutes before the break.

Showunmi ran strongly and found Benyon but his shot failed to match his fine turn and, while on target, it was a decent height for Flinders to beat away.

The Gulls finished the half strongly and had a bit of pressure at the start of the second.

But James, who else, turned things Pools way.

He earned a 54th-minute corner off Torquay centre-half Krystian Pearce, one of only two won by Pools all afternoon.

Boss Colin Cooper admitted afterwards that Barmby’s delivery from the clock corner was scuffed. But it was still good enough for James who stooped and guided into the far corner of Poke’s net.

Admittedly, had the Gulls had the posts covered it would have been food and drink in clearance terms.

But they didn’t and the 1,000 people in the Town End, nor James, were complaining.

Torquay kept plugging away and Flinders saved from Harding and Collins blocked a Benyon attempt.

It needed just one more goal to finish it and it was worth the wait.

James sent Harewood clear down the right and with the goal and Poke getting closer, you could see the striker ponder a square ball for the on-rushing Barmby up the middle.

Thankfully, the former West Ham and Nottingham Forest forward went for it and his low finish from 16 yards was too good for the keeper.

Torquay, thereafter, were a spent force and it seemed it would be a case of how many?

Alas, Pools could not add to their tally. This reporter’s favourite moment came in the 72nd minute when Richards and Burgess played the ball out from the back, the centre half sending Holden away with a delicious pass but, sadly, only a corner came from it.

But the confidence shown in that 10 seconds will hopefully be replicated in the coming weeks.

Talking of confidence, Cooper sent on his subs and young Lewis Hawkins made an instant impression playing a slide-rule pass up the channel, which Harewood dummied nicely to put Antony Sweeney in the clear.

A match-sharp Sweeney may well have taken full advantage but Pearce nicked in to deny him, but at least the signs were promising.

In fact, there was plenty of promise full stop.

But the promise needs to be translated into points over the coming crucial weeks.