Liam Kennedy analysis: Pools must find a nasty streak
Quite often in life it is better to have style over substance.
Most of the time a little of something good is better than loads of something bad.
Well, as we all know life is far from idealistic. Football even less so.
And while Hartlepool United and manager Craig Hignett pride themselves on being one of the most sleek, stylish and easy on the eye sides in League Two, one thing they are not is consistently effective.
This is becoming increasingly obvious to anyone who watches the team week-in, week-out.
And the weekend two-goal defeat at Adams Park to a physical, but less than impressive Wycombe Wanderers outfit was the case in point for this argument.
On Saturday the press box was awash with southern hacks, yet to see Pools in the flesh this season.
And the word back from many of them was positive.
It left me asking if they had watched the same game as me?
One even came across to say “I’ve not seen a team come here to try and play football like that this campaign”.
Having mulled over that comment in my mind for a day or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is actually very easy to see why people might come to that conclusion.
The fourth tier is a division which is won by teams who, more often that not, are big, strong and physical.
Football, in the purest sense of the word, has little place at this level, barring the odd piece of magic from an individual.
So, by the sounds of it, few teams have gone to High Wycombe to pass the ball out from the back, craft the perfect goal, like for example an Arsenal, or spray the ball around like Barcelona.
Now I am not for one second about to suggest that Hignett has Pools playing anything like one of European football’s greats, but he has definitely succeeded in making them attractive. He has a talented young group, who are intent on trying to do things the right way. But what did Pools get for attempting to outplay their opponents?
Less than Barnet, who won 2-0 there in February. Less than Colchester who won by the same scoreline a month previous. Pools also earned a point less than midweek foes Accrington, and didn’t manage to do to the Chairboys what Bristol City and Coventry City did in the cup.
And this is where ideals have to go out the window, and cold hard facts come into play.
Teams don’t have to always win games pretty. No team has ever played the opposition off the park, every week and won.
Even the best sides out there have learned ways of winning ugly.
Quite frankly Pools are just too nice and maybe even too soft to do that. Well, at this moment anyway.
Things did start off so well for the side.
Sticking to his 3-5-2, or 3-4-3 as the manager likes to call it, James Martin was again given the nod at left-back, with Lewis Alessandra partnering Padraig Amond in an athletic looking front two.
And it was the former pair who almost combined to put Pools into a very early lead.
Martin’s break down the left, resulted in a whipped cross into the centre after less than three minutes. But the delivery had just too much on it for frontman Alessandra, who is in good goalscoring form, having netted the winner against Stanley just a few days previous.
Outplayed early on and lacking fluency, Pools again almost netted and it was that man Alessandra at the centre of the action.
The crafty former York City man attempted a lob from the half way line, but lofty keeper Jamal Blackman, on loan from Premier League Chelsea and on a reported £12,000 per week at Stamford Bridge, clambered back, using all of his six foot eight inches frame to cover.
Sadly, that was as good as it got for Pools, though.
From then on in it was the home side who controlled proceedings, laying siege to the Pools goal.
They got their breakthrough in the 24th minute when star man Kashket took advantage of some hesitant defending from teenager left-back Martin to rattle home from close range.
Ade Akinfenwa was a threat throughout. His size and strength kept all three centre-backs - Toto Nsiala, Matthew Bates and Scott Harrison - occupied. The trio coped well with the constant pressure from Wanderers.
But a team can only soak up so much pressure.
And despite a better start to the half, Pools fate was sealed with 10 minutes left on the clock. A chipped ball over the top caught Pools napping and Kashket deservedly ensured victory with a cool, composed finish, giving keeper Trevor Carson absolutely no chance.
Hignett’s men did carve out half chances of their own in the second period - Michael Woods seeing one effort sail harmlessly over the top from a decent shooting position - but a point would have been very kind on the visitors.
So for all of Pools neat triangles in the final third, and probing from deep, they went home pointless.
Wycombe were strong and direct - an approach that paid dividends.
There is definitely a lesson for Pools to learn from this.
No one wants to see them lose their flashy brilliance. But they just have to make sure they do the basics right. Then, and only then will it all fall into place for Hignett & Co.