Liam Kennedy's Hartlepool analysis: One goal margin only tells a fraction of weekend story

While the scoreline looks less than flattering, when it comes to away day wins, they don't come much sweeter than this.

Monday, 24th September 2018, 10:35 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th September 2018, 1:52 am
Liam Noble.

Another one goal victory only tells a fraction of the tale for Pools on what was quite possibly their most complete performance since Matthew Bates took the reins back in March.

Defensively they were solid, in attack they were lethal and everything in the middle was done with style, elegance and speed befitting of teams at a much higher level.

Liam Noble.

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This will be the club’s toughest test of the season they said. Pools will come unstuck.

Hartlepool United came, they saw, they conquered.

And all of this against one of their so-called National League promotion rivals.

The win continues a remarkable sequence for Pools. They have lost just once in 12 away games under Bates. They are on an 11-game unbeaten stretch on their travels, which goes back to March last season. They’ve won their last four on the road, something they’ve not done since the halcyon days of 2006. And it’s also NINE unbeaten in the National League this season, the only loss in their 12 games to date coming at the Super 6 Stadium against Ebbsfleet United.

Whatever your thoughts on this team - as good as they have been, they are still far from perfect - they’ve far exceeded the wildest dreams of even the most positive Pools fan.

And if they keep this kind of form up, promotion will certainly be on the cards. Well, a play-off spot and a shot at Wembley a realistic prospect.

On to the game itself, while Bates had reported on Thursday this weekend would come around too soon for club captain Andrew Davies, the Pools skipper was surprisingly named in the starting XI for the trip to the Shay, in place of the injured Ryan Donaldson.

The man he was handed the armband by - Liam Noble - was right in the thick of the action, as ever, from the off.

Picking the ball up 30 yards from goal he saw an opportunity to add to his five goals, cracking off the top of the bar.

Jonathan Edwards went close at the other end, too. His low skidding effort from close range was sharply tipped around the post by an alert, as ever, Scott Loach.

Pools, on top but not in front, again impressed with some of their slick passing play. Moving the ball from right to left at will, creating chances and dominating the opposition they were a joy to watch in the opening 45. But, crucially, they did not break the deadlock before the break despite the best efforts of Noble, who also saw a long distance free-kick parried by Johnson between the sticks for the hosts.

While the first 45 was east on the eye, it had little in the way of drama to set pulses racing. That all changed within eight second half minutes.

Kioso saw a header from a Noble free-kick saved, but when the player went down injured the man in the middle - Daniel Middleton - consulted with his linesman and decided, after some deliberation that he would firstly send off home captain Brown, showing a straight red, then turn his arm towards the spot.

Noble, cool and calm, made no mistake from 12 yards to put Pools deservedly ahead. As ice cold as he was in the long wait to take the spot-kick, he was anything but in his celebrations, going wild in front of the travelling Poolies, cupping his ears and pumping his fists. He’s been a class act since the first ball was kicked for Pools this season.

Scenes of jubilation ensued in the packed away end, who were in even better voice when Matty Kosylo was shown a second yellow for a reckless challenge as Halifax went down to nine-men. Nicky Featherstone then cracked home his third of the campaign to seal all three points before Jacob Hanson broke away in the closing stages to nab a consolation.