Liam Kennedy analysis: Pools beat Acrington with new system

Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett has claimed that luck evens itself out over the course of a season.

Wednesday, 23rd November 2016, 9:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 9:27 am
Nicky Deverdics celebrates his goal. Picture by Frank Reid
Nicky Deverdics celebrates his goal. Picture by Frank Reid

And he had hoped it would come around soon this campaign.

Well, Pools got a decision go in their favour for a change, as they recorded their third win on the bounce at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.

Hignett’s men have had their fair share of bad calls from referees this campaign. Barnet, Luton, Plymouth - the list is endless.

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But a red card handed to Mark Hughes on the hour mark, something Pools have had to get used to this campaign, this time, turned the game in their favour.

And it was a touch fortuitous, if correct by the letter of the law.

A ball into the area was headed at goal by Toto Nsiala and Richard Clark pointed to the spot, not for a challenge on the DR Congo international, but for Hughes holding back Padraig Amond.

And having made no attempt to play the ball, Hughes was given his marching orders, much like Liam Donnelly was at The Hive.

Not many would have given it, but Clark got it spot on.

Nicky Deverdics scored an acrobatic strike from the penalty rebound after Amond missed his spot-kick.

A late Lewis Alessandra strike sealed the win.

On the selection front, Pools boss Craig Hignett made two changes to the side who were beaten in added time at Doncaster on Saturday.

Out went the injured Jordan Richards, out with a bruised foot, and in came Scott Harrison.

Jake Carroll was taken out the side after being blamed for the Donny winner at the Keepmoat Stadium, with youngster James Martin coming in to make his League Two debut.

More interestingly, though, Hignett decided to switch his team around for the visit of Stanley, binning his tried and tested 4-3-3, in order to trial 3-5-2, with Amond and Alessandra up top, and Lewis Hawkins dropping to the right-hand side.

Settling in to the system switch, Pools looked a threat on the break, but still looked to have a mistake in them defensively.

That error came from Matthew Bates. Playing in the centre of the three, the defender allowed a loose ball to run past him on the penalty spot, and Shay McCartan scuffed an effort low at goal, but Trevor Carson was equal to it.

Pools looked ponderous in possession and were sloppy in their passing. Harrison and Nsiala were guilty of one or two moments of madness when attempting clear the ball in a poor opening 20 minutes for the hosts.

Pools had a bit of a let off when a cross from the right-hand side sailed over the head of a static looking Bates on into the path of Stanley frontman Billy Kee. The striker’s volley, luckily for Pools, went inches past Carson’s post.

It was a real let off for the home side.

For one moment, in the opening 45, Pools attacking game clicked, and Alessandra went close to opening the scoring.

Set free by a beautifully weighted pass with the outside of Deverdics left boot, the forward streaked free, only to see his goal-bound effort cleared by the sprawled leg of Elliot Parish.

As far as gilt-edged opportunities go, though, Kee’s miss soon after was up there with the best of them - volleying wide from eight yards.

While many on the terraces were calling for a half-time change of formation, Hignett stuck to his guns. But things didn’t seem to improve, with Stanley dominating in terms of chances created. Mark Hughes saw one header cleared off the line by Amond, then Nsiala has to be on his guard to deny Jordan Clarke.

Just after the hour mark the game burst into life. A ball into the box was won by Nsiala, but his header was saved. The referee spotted an infringement and called it back, dismissing Hughes and awarding Pools the penalty.

After a long delay, Amond saw his poor spot-kick saved by Parish. In the melee than then ensued, Lewis Hawkins saw the rebound deflect up off an Accrington defender, and Deverdics acrobatically volleyed in.

It was some finish from the creative midfielder, who to that point had been frustrating and brilliant in equal measure with the ball.

Having lived dangerously in a defensive sense, Pools did have Trevor Carson to thank late on, as he produced a brilliant save to deny sub Patrick Lacey when one-on-one.

And into added time a slick passing move by the hosts ended with a Amond cross and Alessandra finish from close range, putting the icing on the cake for Pools, who kept yet another clean sheet - their third in less than a fortnight - as well as securing their third win at home.