Hartlepool walking on sunshine after rainiy night in Wrexham
Never knock the Welsh for their sense of humour.
With the Racecourse Ground getting a battering from the wind and rain brought by Storm Eileen, what was the first song on at the half-time interval?
“Walking on sunshine” – and that is exactly how Hartlepool United’s dedicated fans will have been feeling after watching another step in the right direction from their club.
Pools could not quite make it four victories on the spin at Wrexham last night, though they came mighty close.
Craig Harrison’s team were just a few inches away from victory but the manner of the display indicated how Pools are now beginning to look the part.
There is a real desire and quality to a team who, just five games ago, looked utterly clueless.
We knew already that Pools probably have the best keeper in the National League. No club, surely, can trump Scott Loach?
The back four has great balance – two centre-backs in Michael Ledger and, especially, Keith Watson, who love to defend, and full-backs Carl Magnay and Nicky Deverdics who are calm figures at the back but who love getting forward.
In front of them, Nicky Featherstone is pulling the strings alongside two incredible workhorses, Michael Woods and Lewis Hawkins.
The forward line changed last night, with Rhys Oates coming in for his first start, teaming up with Devante Rodney and Jonathan Franks, with all three, and then sub Ryan Donaldson making life uncomfortable for the meanest defence in the National League, who extended their run without conceding a goal to 508 minutes.
All Pools were missing was the elusive goal but three clean sheets in the last four matches is an excellent foundation.
If Harrison can unearth a 20-goals-a-season-plus marksman or one of the current crop can step up to the mark then a sustained crack at the top of the division cannot be ruled out.
Harrison made one change to Saturday’s winning XI, bringing in Oates up front following a knock Connor Simpson took against Dagenham & Redbridge.
Simpson did travel to North Wales but was not risked, while there was a change on the bench where defender Louis Laing returned to the squad.
Pools, playing into the driving rain and wind, made a decent start with Oates heading over from a cracking Deverdics delivery from the left side.
Harrison continually switched his three forwards around Rodney ran hard, only to be crowded out by three defenders.
Pools were seeing plenty of the opposition third of the field with Oates skimming a header wide from a Deverdics corner.
Wrexham did pick up their form as the half wore on with Sam Wedgbury shooting high over the bar from long range while skipper Shaun Pearson’s header from a corner was comfortably taken by Loach.
Franks came agonisingly close to a fourth goal in four games on the hour when he struck the Wrexham bar in one of their moves of the game.
Magnay found Rodney with an incisive pass and the teenager followed suit with a great ball into the danger area. Franks met it sweetly, too sweetly suggested Harrison in his media conference, with his effort cannoning back off the woodwork with Callum Preston beaten.
Pools forced two corners in quick succession and soon had the best chance of the contest when Rodney only had the keeper to beat, but shot straight at Preston who made a strong stop.
The Dragons went straight upfield and almost stole one on the counter-attack, Loach diving low to his right to keep out Alex Reid’s powerful left-foot drive at his near post.
Wrexham did apply some pressure and forced a few corners but nothing to give Loach any particular problems.
The better possession play came from the away side, who were still sending Magnay and Deverdics deep into enemy territory late in the piece.
Featherstone got himself into an amazing position near the end of normal time, but his shot lacked any conviction while there was a free-kick position inside the last couple of minutes which had Deverdics written on it.
Donaldson had been hacked down by Pearson when in full flow and the sub was given the opportunity from long range but his shot was not as good as his runand the Dragons got the ball away. It should have gone to Deverdics, but it was about the only thing Pools got wrong on a bright night for Harrison, his side and the fans.