Liam Kennedy's big-match analysis: Hartlepool United 0 Wrexham 2
Just as it appears Hartlepool United are about to begin functioning as a club for the first time in around two years, their team is looking even more of a shambles.
Saturday was a day filled with pride, passion, love for the club, solidarity in the town.
It’s a shame no one told the players that.
From one to 11 every one of them produced a damp squib of a performance. All that when the perfect stage was set for them to perform.
Wages have been covered, so that worry is off their backs. The stadium was full, nothing better for a professional. And there was finally, after so much negativity, a buzz around the place.
But their show was not worthy of the vociferous support Poolies, and fans from across the region and more further afield, gave them. They did not deserve any of it.
A lack of ideas, willing and quality at both ends meant this was an easy afternoon’s work for Dean Keates’ promotion chasing Dragons.
Everyone can forgive a defeat to a top end side, but it is the manner in which you do it that is most telling.
Sadly, though, this is no new thing. It might have been a surprise to Boro daytrippers or North East fans along to show their support for the cause.
But for Poolies they’ve read this script time and time again, in what is turning out to be an utterly forgettable campaign.
From the off it was clear to see that Wrexham were a tight ship.
They basically allowed Pools much of the early possession and to be honest they were never troubled.
Pools midfield lacks the drive or guile to be able to open teams up. At the moment it is much of muchness. Not one of them wants to take the game by the scruff of the neck. None of them appears to have a killer pass and tackles, at the moment, are non-existent.
This has been a problem all season. No matter how many times Harrison has shuffled his pack in the middle, it’s always the same end result. Slow, laboured, backwards and sideways passing. No bite, no urgency.
To be fair things aren’t much better elsewhere.
Bar Liam Donnelly the Pools back four look every bit deserving of their lower fifth tier rating.
There is experience all across that backline - many have played higher, all have played a huge number of games. Not one of them is able to step up to the plate, take responsibility and lead from the front. One of them is the skipper, too, which is even more of a concern.
Defending was schoolboy on Saturday. It always seems to be. Pools missed Michael Ledger and Keith Watson, but it must also be said that they’ve been just as bad defensively with them in the team as well.
From back to front they lack leaders.
Up top I feel sorry for Jake Cassidy. Every week I struggle to give him any more than a five or six out of 10. It’s not because he’s not trying, or hasn’t got the quality, it’s just because the system makes him look out of sorts.
As a lone striker, with absolutely no support he’s struggled. Before his injury he played up top supported by Padraig Amond. Even with the departed Irishman severely out of form, Cassidy looked a right handful. He’s looked the same player since Amond left. Coincidence? I think not.
He needs a striker, with striker’s instincts close to him, running off him. For me, it might be time to give Devante Rodney a shot in a two up front. At least Cassidy would not look as wasted as he does at present. He’s not become a bad player overnight.
In the end it was two totally preventable goals that proved the difference in a game that lacked any semblance of class.
Many said the football on Saturday was immaterial - I’m not sure fans expected the players to take that literally.
As the club wrestles it’s away from the edge of a cliff, this team are hurtling towards it at a rapid pace.
Little the manager seems to do has much of an impact on results.
And the squad is so stretched due to illness and a whole host of other unforeseen circumstances that change is almost impossible.
With no immediate prospect of a transfers coming in, this long, long winter looks set to continue for Pools.
Tomorrow night is a must win.
Chester represents the perfect opportunity for Pools to right a few wrongs.
If Gateshead can go there and produce the goods, as they did on Saturday, then there’s absolutely no reason why Pools, who were as good, if not better than Heed over the festive period, cannot do the same.
A run with no win since November is just not good enough for Pools and Harrison. It has to end soon.
Just six points separate Pools and flirtations with the National League North.
If you think things can’t get any worse than this, they definitely can. And if this run continues, it might just happen.