Liam Kennedy's Hartlepool United analysis: Numbers are stacking up for Pools as they continue National League rise
FOURTH place. FIVE wins in their last SIX National League games and SEVEN unbeaten.
It’s fair to say the numbers are stacking up for Hartlepool United in the fifth tier this season.
Having looked naive, out of ideas and without real purpose for much of the 2017/18 season - they seem to have finally, under the astute guidance of Matthew Bates - worked out what playing at this level requires.
And having done so, they’re surging towards the top end of the division, with some intent.
At the moment it’s a case of putting ANY opposition in front of Pools and they’re finding a way of getting something out of a game, no matter whether they play well or are far from their best.
Critics of this Pools run - there are less and less by the week - seem to be suggesting that this side hasn’t played anyone yet.
Looking at the league table they have, of course, beaten many sides towards the bottom end of the division.
But personally, I’d read little into this analysis.
What gets overlooked in this argument is that Pools could and should have beaten league leaders and top scorers Harrogate Town at the Super 6 Stadium.
At times they played them off the park and only lost their 2-1 lead as time ticked over to 90 minutes.
They’ve also beaten Chesterfield, with high profile players and a very high profile, skilled manager.
Add in the point against Barrow - who could turn out to be one of the division’s dark horses - and wins over Maidenhead and now Solihull and it’s easy to see why so many in this part of the world are getting a little bit excited.
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Yes, bigger challenges lie in the not too distant future. After Eastleigh at the Vic this weekend trips to Halifax Town - fifth - and Salford City - sixth - are on the horizon.
But one thing that is certain to be in Pools’ favour is the fact they feel like they can beat anyone at this level. One defeat in 10 games has seen confidence breed like wildfire in the dressing-room and a confident team, at any level, are a dangerous one.
On to Saturday’s game.
Matthew Bates resisted to temptation to stick with the same team which was on a six-game unbeaten run, instead opting to bring in Paddy McLaughlin at the expense of Michael Woods, who dropped to the bench.
The hosts were without their skipper soon after when Kyle Storer was given his marching orders for a two-footed challenge on Nicky Featherstone just before the half hour.
After a disappointing opening 45, Pools came out with renewed vigour after the break.
First to every ball, pushing the opposition into their own defensive third and forcing things themselves, Pools dominated against the 10 of Moors, where they’d struggle in the first half.
A man to the good and in no mood to let the opposition off the hook, Pools finally went in front on 58 when Noble picked the ball up from distance, lined up his shot and curled past a helpless Ryan Boot, who did not move from the moment it left the Geordie’s boot.
Goal number five for talisman Noble, and the opener for Pools - well deserved on both counts.
Not intent with the one goal, Pools remained on the front foot in the Midlands as the game went into the final third.
Ryan Donaldson, a constant thorn in Moors’ side on the right, almost made it 2-0 with 20 to go, but his volley from a deep Mark Kitching cross came off the bar.
And, as they have with relative ease in recent weeks, Pools saw the game out with little fuss. This is becoming a very good habit they’ve picked up, long may it continue.