Hartlepool United analysis: Harrogate defeat serves as a shining example of a big issue facing Pools

Ask any successful football team and they'll tell you how key momentum is.

Saturday, 19th January 2019, 5:39 pm
Updated Saturday, 19th January 2019, 5:44 pm
Hartlepool United suffered another defeat at Harrogate Town

One run of results or surge of positive performances can prove season-defining, with momentum proving to key to both promotion pushes and relegation battles.

But at the moment, Hartlepool United are absolutely devoid of it.

And perhaps nowhere clearer was that seen than at Harrogate Town - where the hosts served as a shining example of exactly what can be achieved with momentum on your side.

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While their recent results - Saturday excluded - haven’t been particularly positive, the North Yorkshire side’s continuation of the fine form that saw them clinch promotion to the National League now has them challenging for promotion to the EFL.

In stark contrast, Pools are sliding down the table - with nervous glances starting to be cast.

Of course, momentum could halt that. But Pools need to find some inspiration from somewhere.

There have been short bursts of promise, as there was during the 90 minutes at the CNG Stadium, but these need to be maintained.

Pools arguably couldn’t have entered the clash at Harrogate in better spirits.

Despite crashing out the FA Trophy in their previous outing, three exciting new additions offered promise ahead of the televised.

Pools needed to grasp that optimism, and use it to their advantage.

Instead, they found themselves 1-0 down after four minutes.

The goal was much their own doing, with debutant Michael Raynes and Carl Magnay both failing to get to get the ball away before it fell - somewhat fortuitously, it must be said - for Lloyd Kerry, who drilled home at the near post.

And things could have gone from bad to worse when Magnay was penalised for pulling on Mark Beck’s shirt in the penalty area.

Scott Loach managed to deny George Thomson from the spot with a fine save, which lifted the travelling support.

There was that optimism again. But again, Pools failed to take the opportunity to build some momentum.

You often hear of penalty saves being defining moments or turning points in games, but that wasn’t to be the case for Pools.

Instead, they had to deal with some more pressure from their hosts as they looked to see the first half out.

But then, the tide turned.

Pools turned up the pressure, with debutant Nicke Kabamba seeing a header well-saved before Michael Raynes sent a similar effort just over the bar.

After weathering the storm for much of the opening period, Pools went into the break on top.

That presented yet another chance to build some momentum, to carry on where they left off and turn the screw after the restart.

A Harrogate goal after the restart quickly cancelled out any of those plans.

As with the first, it was down to a Pools mistake - Nicky Featherstone’s loss pass starting a passage of play which resulted in Jack Muldoon arrowing an unstoppable effort into the top corner.

But Pools rallied, with Nicke Kabamba - dogged throughout on his debut - firing home at the second attempt to reduce the deficit.

Pools once again had hope. The fans were vocal and there was a real opportunity to build some momentum and net a leveller.

Any chances of that happening were quickly extinguished, with Mark Beck’s towering header restoring Harrogate’s two-goal cushion.

Yet again, Hartlepool were denied the chance to build some momentum.

Whether during individual games or over the course of the whole season, those chances need to be taken.

Richard Money admitted himself that the club are desperate for a win, but when it comes Pools need to ensure it is built upon and another victory is secured. And another after that.

You get the jist.

That’s easier said than done, of course, but if Pools can seize those minor momentum-building moments in games that they missed at Harrogate, then that could make the longer-term picture look far brighter.