Hartlepool United analysis: Fans produce goods after recent criticism, but Pools' players fall short AGAIN
The relationship between fans and the players in football is a two-way thing.
Players thrive off the support of the fans, but without performances from their players fans struggle to give that backing.
It’s been a problem at Hartlepool United for some time, and one manager Richard Money has made a big play to try and change. He called on fans to back their lads after last week’s dismal home loss to Maidstone United - and let’s be frank, Poolies did their job. But yet again their lads on the park let them down... again.
Goals from Amari Morgan Smith and Daniel Udoh ensured the sixth tier side progressed to the next stage of the competition, while Pools suffered their second Super 6 Stadium defeat in eight days. Myles Anderson added a late consolation.
Despite saying he would stick with a similar team to the one beaten last time out in the National League, Richard Money made four changes on home turf - two of which were enforced.
With Jake Cassidy cup tied, due to his involvement in the first round while at Maidstone United, and Liam Noble injured, Money handed a debut to on loan full-back Danny Amos, while pushing Mark Kitching further forward.
Carl Magnay slotted into the back four, while Nicky Featherstone, Paddy McLaughlin and Niko Muir got starting XI recalls.
Last weekend Pools were caught on the break at will by then 23rd-placed fifth tier side Maidstone, it was no different this time out against a team a division but just five places lower.
And it was the speedy, athletic National League North frontline of Udoh and Morgan Smith, who took full advantage - the former’s cross was only half blocked by Harvey Rodgers and squirmed through to the latter who tapped home from close range for 1-0.
Despite the manager picking out his defensive group as a particular problem area last week, it was a weakness again this.
And error by Magnay, handed the armband in the absence of Noble and following the exit of Andrew Davies, allowed to Telford to again break at pace. This time Udoh squared for goalscorer Morgan-Smith but luckily for Pools Nicky Featherstone was on hand to smartly block and save his skipper’s blushes.
The visitors were easily the better of the two sides in the opening 45, but they did not have it all their own way. McLaughlin tee’d up Ryan Donaldson with a free-kick, but the midfielder’s low drive is saved by Andrew Wycherley. Luke James, again lively, had one left-footed effort over the top when played in by Muir.
Money, looking to halt his side’s limp exit from the competition made two changes at the break. Off came the under-performing Kenton Richardson and Kitching and on went Josh Hawkes and Anderson. A switch to three at the back ensued.
Caught rather cold, Anderson was in the action from the off, failing to deal with a ball over the top before getting done for pace as Udoh’s effort was cleared off the line by Amos. It could, and should, have been 2-0 to the visitors.
James, the only real bright spark for Money’s hosts, went close to an equaliser on 53 when his smart turn 25 yards from goal opened up the space before he unleashed a wicked right-footed shot which hit the underside of the bar and bounced on the line. No goal said referee Simeon Lucas.
Pools had diced with death in a defensive sense and they weren’t about to be let off again by Telford who could smell blood in the tie.
Udoh, head and shoulders the best player on the park, was the only man to react in a congested area when a Shane Sutton shot cannoned back off the post, and as easy as you like, he made it 2-0.
A replay would have been on the cards for both sides, with Tuesday night down in Shropshire already pencilled in, had the game ended level. There was never really any fear of that happening as the visitors held on with relative ease, although Anderson’s late header did ensure Pools got something out of the day.
It’s sad to say it, but while progress has been made in the organisation and style of play of this team, results are showing little progress. That has to be a major cause for concern.
Whether it’s confidence or whether it’s quality, Pools are not producing the goods when it really matters.
They’ve changed manager, again and again. This kind of performance, coupled with the one last week, must be sending alarm bells going in the dressing room. Players must start living up to their hype, their own egos, their own reputations. Because Pools fans deserve better than the dross some of them are producing not as one offs, but week-in, week-out.