Hartlepool 1 Maidstone 2: Jake Cassidy's goalscoring return proves fruitless for Pools as they suffer ANOTHER home defeat
Hartlepool United suffered yet another embarrassing home defeat to relegation-threatened Maidstone United, despite the goalscoring return of striker Jake Cassidy.
Cassidy scored just five minutes into his Pools return against the side where he has spent much of this campaign on loan.
That goal cancelled out an earlier strike by the impressive Jack Powell, who doubled his and his side's tally just before the break, in what proved the decisive goal of the clash.
The result leaves Pools in 14th place in the National League table, 11 points from the National League play off spots and nine above the four relegation places.
On the selection front Richard Money made two changes to the side who beat Gateshead on New Year's Day, with Harvey Rodgers coming into the side alongside Cassidy. Carl Magnay switched back into the holding midfield roll he occupied earlier in the festive period.
It was, being honest, a disaster opening from Pools as their defensive frailties, despite naming FIVE defenders in their starting XI, were laid bare.
A centre from the right in the fourth minute was turned in by Powell for 1-0.
It was a shock to the system for Pools and one they immediately went about rectifying.
Within 60 seconds of the restart the ball found its way to Josh Hawkes at the back post, his volley cut the ball back to Cassidy, via a visiting defender, and the striker scored within six minutes of his Hartlepool return. There was no celebration from the frontman against the players he was training and playing with just a few short days ago, but it was a fine finish all the same for goal number four of the campaign.
Powell went close to adding a second with a deft flick and another crack across the bows of Scott Loach's goal as Pools lived dangerously in the defensive third.
They ran out of luck five minutes before the break, though, as Powell made it third time lucky in a familiar fashion to the game's opener.
A break down the right - Pools' left - resulted in Powell picking up the ball with his back to goal, before turning and tucking in at Loach's near post. Another poor, poor goal for Pools to concede.
Despite being the better side for much of the opening 45, Pools found themselves behind at the break, despite the best efforts of Magnay, whose late header was palmed away by Ethan Ross - and much of it was down to their inability to defend on the counter attack.
After the break Pools came out with some renewed vigour and went within inches of getting level on 54. A bursting run down the right from lively Luke James clipped the top of Ross' bar.
With time ticking away, it could and should have been 3-1 and a hat-trick for Powell. Some suspect defending from Rodgers allowed Jake Robinson to turn and lay a third goal on a plate for the two-goal midfielder, but Magnay was on hand to block with a goal looking certain.
In search of a late point, Money threw on Niko Muir for the tiring Hawkes as Pools pinned their relegation-threatened opposition back.
Mark Kitching, after a torrid opening 45, fired just over the Maidstone bar late on as he became Pools' main point of attack down the left. More brilliant work on the flank saw Kitching beat a man and chip to the head of Cassidy, but the striker could not add to his tally as Pools ended the game to a chorus of boos at the Super 6 Stadium.