Liam Kennedy's Hartlepool United analysis: Home performances a concern for Pools despite results
Hartlepool United have only lost twice at the Super 6 Stadium this season.
It certainly doesn’t feel like it though, for those who rock up to Victoria Park to cheer on (well, sometimes) their beloved blue and whites.
Pools this campaign have only been beaten by Saturday’s opponents Sutton United and Ebbsfleet earlier in the campaign. Most seasons, especially taking the club’s debut campaign in the into National League account, this would be something to shout from the rooftops.
Few Poolies are, though, and that’s because performances on home turf have so far, failed to inspire or excite.
Results have come, yes, but quality, or at least sustained quality has not come with it.
Saturday was another example of that. Despite the scoreline and another two goals at home, Pools flattered to deceive in front of their own.
Aswad Thomas put the visitors in front early on as Sutton dominated the opening 45. Refreshed and rejuvenated Pools came out and grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck as first Niko Muir and then Liam Noble put them in front in the space of two minutes.
As has so often been the case, though, the hosts let their hopes of three home points slip as Tom Bolarinwa popped up with a second-half equaliser.
And then with time ticking away Craig Eastmond cracked home from the edge of the area to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
On the selection front Pools’ boss Bates made just the one change from the FA Cup win over Kidsgrove Athletic - with Michael Woods dropping out and Paddy McLaughlin coming in.
And while the midfielder did not have the best of opening 45s, the player was a catalyst for Pools’ improvement in the second period
While Bates’ men saw plenty of the ball early on they struggled to unpick the Sutton lock. The visitors did not have the same problems as Thomas turned home from close range in the 22nd minute. From a Pools perspective it was a disappointing one, having failed to deal with the corner and then lose a battle on the deck in the area. It was a messy one, but that mattered little - 1-0 to the visitors
It took Pools until two minutes into the second half to get on terms. A corner from the right was recycled by Carl Magnay and Muir managed to poke home from inside the six-yard box to make it 1-1
Not wanting to rest on their laurels, two minutes later Noble turned the game on its head. A free kick from wide was fired in on goal and deflected home via Eastmond for 2-1
In front and in control this game, and the points looked headed in one direction but having been in front for all of 14 minutes, Pools again let their guard slip. On the break. Bolarinwa tucked in at the back post to level things up
Ryan Donaldson, on a rare foray forward, missed a fantastic opportunity to put Pools in front again, failing to control a back-post volley before the late sucker punch as Eastmond stroked in from 18 yards to ensure the points went south.
This result did little to alter the league position as Pools dropped to ninth. It did, however, see the gap to the top increase to eight as the pipe dream of automatic promotion continues to drift.