Analysis: Matthew Bates underlines managerial credentials as Pools cap near perfect day
Three points. A gap opened to the bottom four. A takeover back on track. As far as regular Wednesday's go, this one was pretty perfect for Hartlepool United.
And after the way it had started, who’d have thought things would turn out so rosy.
The day started with news of the collapse of Raj Singh’s takeover and ended with Carl Magnay produced yet more magic, in a game that meant so much to Pools.
Yet again the players and the coaching team proved this side is made of sterner stuff than anyone imagined possible.
The win, only Pools’ second in 18 games, opened up a three-point gap to the National League’s bottom four.
Pools got off to the worst possible start when former striker Luke James made them pay for some awful defending.
A straight ball cut the Pools backline in half and James, who only signed for Barrow in January after his release from Forest Green, ghosted in behind a static Scott Harrison and slid under the advancing frame of Scott Loach for 1-0.
That’s five goals in five games for James. What Pools would do for a striker with that kind of ratio.
To be honest, prior to the goal, Pools were on top, carving open chances and using their width to stretch the opposition on home turf. But, after James’ strike, they never quite looked the same.
Pace and power up top caused the Hartlepool back four all kind of problems, with James a particular thorn in the side and the bursting runs of Asa Hall a constant concern.
That was, until stoppage time at the end of the half, when Pools somehow worked a leveller.
A Jake Cassidy flick saw Rhys Oates challenge keeper Steve Arnold and Conor Newton was on hand to turn home from close range.
Much like they did in the opening 45 minutes, Pools started off the second half on the front foot.
And, while they did not make their dominance count early doors, they were not about to make the same mistake again.
If you think you’ve seen some Pools crackers of late, skipper Magnay trumped it on 50 minutes – the defender found the ball at his feet in space 35 yards from goal and he did not hesitate in lashing into the top corner of Arnold’s goal.
A goal of the season contender from Magnay.
Confidence then flowed for Matthew Bates’ Pools. And instead of retreating into their shell, Pools peppered the Bluebirds’ goal.
Michael Woods went close with a long-range effort and sub Devante Rodney almost added to his tally, but for Arnold’s acrobatics.
Some heroic defending late on, with Harrison limping on through the final 10 minutes, ensured that Pools showed yet more character to grind out a result.
The win also made it three games unbeaten for Pools under Bates.
He’s had his critics among Poolies, but, slowly, Bates is doing his best to win over the doubters.
Whatever the potential new owners’ thoughts on the caretaker, he’s making their decision about the future a very difficult one.
It’s hard to see after such a positive impact how they will justify getting rid of Bates.
He’s managed to get a tune out of a squad who a few weeks back didn’t look like they could hit a note.