Liam Kennedy's Hartlepool United analysis: Crisis? What Crisis? Have Pools moved on from their mid-season wobble?

Is Hartlepool United's mid-season, mini-crisis over?

Saturday, 10th November 2018, 10:22 pm
Updated Monday, 12th November 2018, 7:52 pm
Matthew Bate, Hartlepool United boss.

It might be a touch early to say that, but the signs on Saturday were certainly promising.

To go to a League One side, one which has returned to form recently, who have the top scorer in the division when you are out of form yourselves and get a result is something to be celebrated.

To do it without arguably your player of the season - Peter Kioso - on the sidelines and your skipper and most experienced player - Andrew Davies - also serving a suspension, makes it even more impressive.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Then add in the fact you make changes to the team to take your best striker - Niko Muir - out of the side, blood a youngster - Kenton Richardson - and deploy a system - 4-4-2 - not seen yet this season and I think this can easily go down as the best performance of the season, and arguably the most impressive seen since Matthew Bates took the reins earlier this year.

Having been quite rigid in his system this season, Matthew Bates mixed things up, partly due to suspensions to Peter Kioso and Andrew Davies.

Instead of the usual 3-5-2 he went with a 4-4-2 bringing Kenton Richardson in at right back for Kioso with Luke James partnering Marcus Dinanga up top. Niko Muir was on the bench, alongside one of Pools’ new boys Tyrone O’Neill.

Despite suffering three National League defeats on the bounce, Pools really warmed to the challenge at Priestfield, producing some silky stuff in the opening exchanges.

Liam Noble was a constant nuisance for the League One outfit, while, as ever, Ryan Donaldson looked a threat down the right.

Top-scorer Tom Eaves had the first real chance of the game as he peeled off the central defenders to beat Richardson to the ball, but the Pools defender did just enough to see the effort sail wide.

With little else to show for their efforts in the opening half hour, the home crowd were disgruntled as Pools continued to play the better stuff.

A good break by the lively Marcus Dinanga started a well-worked move which eventually found its way to Nicky Featherstone, but his low, fizzing effort was wide of the post.

The best chance of the half fell to Pools’ top-scorer Liam Noble, though. Some fantastic build up play down the right saw a cross from Donaldson just miss Dinanga and work its way to Noble. He looked certain to score if he hit it first time but he checked back and saw his effort saved by Tomas Holy.

They may not have got the goal their positive play and approach deserved in the first 45 but Pools were chalk and cheese from their last trip south to Bromley.

Pools carried on in the same vain after the break, too, as first Featherstone, then Donaldson tried their luck from distance. The latter effort forced a smart, low save from Gills’ keeper Holy.

At the other end Carl Magnay was outsmarted by Brandon Hanlan out wide and the pacey winger’s cross went inches past Scott Loach’s far post.

As the game entered the final quarter, Pools’ dominance turned into a bit of a rearguard action as the home side asserted the pressure.

But it was a challenge they held up well to, despite the increasing threat of Eaves & Co, who had Pools pinned back on their own 18-yard line for much of the second period.

Despite a siege ensuing late on Bates’ men held on for a deserved second bite at the cherry on home turf.

Replay earned Pools can look forward to hosting the Gills at the Super 6 Stadium a week on Wednesday.