Liam Kennedy's Hartlepool United analysis: Door still open to FA Cup money-spinner - but Pools must improve to keep dream alive
Progression by any means - that's was Hartlepool United's FA Cup aim.
And to be fair to them, it was far from pretty, but they did just that... progress.
Striker Niko Muir’s fifth goal of the season, scored in the eighth minute was the difference between the sides on the day as Pools claimed the all-important £25,000 to boost the coffers and open up the potential of a decent draw in the first round proper.
Kidsgrove Athletic were plucky, as you’d expect, but this result was more about how far Pools let their own high standards drop, than how much the opponents put in one their ‘big day out’.
When Muir tucked in a Liam Noble headed cross for 1-0 it looked like it could a long, old day for the Evo-Stik West Division side.
But , despite being poles apart in the opening exchanges, Pools failed to put the game to bed.
Luke James saw an effort saved by the impressive Dominic Kurasik between the Kidsgrove sticks, Andrew Davies saw a header cleared off the line while Michael Woods’ goal-bound effort was nodded over the top by defender James Butler
And when the all-important second goal did not arrive and with that the visitors gained a certain degree of hope
After the break they peppered the Pools goal, creating openings galore as Bates’ men were sluggish into the second 45.
Kidsgrove almost managed to force a replay as the game ticked into the final quarter - first Kyle Diskin tested Scott Loach low down, then from the resulting corner he again had to be at his best to keep out a low header.
Ryan Donaldson, Nicky Featherstone and Carl Magnay all had chances to round things off for Pools late on but not one of that trio could hit the target when presented with opportunities.
Progression was all that mattered for Pools, both on the park, and in particular off it.
This is the only competition that has the potential to significantly boost Pools’ coffers.
And while Raj Singh has very, very deep pockets, it would be a bonus not only for him, but also the club as a whole if Pools put together a little run which meant the owner did not have to keep opening the wallet.
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Beating Kidsgrove pocketed Pools £25,000. A first round win will bring in a little more.
A tie against a side like Sunderland at the Stadium of Light - a realistic prospect in the next round - could not only hand Pools a pay-day and the fans a day out, it could also significantly increase the budget available to manager Matthew Bates, who is actively in the market for a striker to boost his options up top.
Beyond, progression keeps alive the pipedream of any side outside the Football League which is to make it to the third round of the competition and draw an away day at one of the Premier League big boys. Those kind of riches can cover massive chunks of a side’s season budget, even a club the size of Pools.
The game itself is of the type that are instantly forgettable. This will not live long in the memory of those who were present, well, not of the blue and white persuasion.
What it might feel like is an opportunity missed, in some ways.
There will be very few opportunities to give some of the fringe men a run and with hindsight, given how poor Pools were on the day, it might not have been a bad thing.
Marcus Dinanga can think himself very unfortunate not to get more than a token minute a the end of the encounter.
Lewis Hawkins must be cutting a frustrated figure on the sidelines, given that he is the only player in the squad, bar keeper Ryan Catterick, who is yet play a minute of first-team football at Pools this campaign.
Pools’ midfield was flat. Liam Noble, Nicky Featherstone and Michael Woods lacked the spark of previous weeks, while the wide and frontmen had little to no impact on the day.
In the end though, the win is the only that counts.
As for positives, Pools came through unscathed in terms of injuries and have seven days between the cup and a return to the National League.
For those who deal with the numbers and balance sheets, and those who travel home and away, this evening’s draw is a time to dream.
For the players, it’s back to work with Sutton United and Wrexham to come in the space of four days in what could prove to be the most crucial week of Pools’ season to date.