Liam Kennedy's match analysis: Hartlepool United 2 Harrogate 2

Another day, another draw, but yet another performance with plenty for Poolies to feel positive about.

Wednesday, 8th August 2018, 12:00 pm
Jake Cassidy celebrates after giving Hartlepool United a 2-1 lead. All pictures by Frank Reid.

It took a late, late Callum Howe header to rob Pools of a much deserved win on home turf.

And, to me, the fact we are so disappointed that they did not get those three points just goes to prove how far we have come, in such a short space of time.

Niko Muir got his Super 6 Stadium – yes, that’s the new Victoria Park moniker – pounced just after the break to open the scoring after some outstanding work by Liam Noble before Dominic Knowles levelled things up soon after.

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Jake Cassidy broke free of the Harrogate backline to hammer home what looked like the winner, but Howe popped up on the stroke of 90 minutes to rescue a point for the visitors.

Having seen his side do everything but win at Maidstone in their National League curtain-raiser, Matthew Bates opted to stick with the same team who served him so well.

Much like in the first half on Saturday, Pools were bright from the off, with Noble seeing plenty of the ball, playing the game at his own pace, and making sure everyone else on the park was, too.

Pools, dominant, should have been in front before the half hour.

They would have been but for the brilliance of James Belshaw between the sticks for the visitors.

First he saved a low effort from Carl Magnay from distance, then reacted quickest to somehow deny Cassidy before completing a remarkable treble save by recovering to stop Luke James opening his Pools account for the third time in his career.

At the other end Scott Loach had to be smart to keep out Knowles and Jack Muldoon as Harrogate worked their way into proceedings later in the half.

At the break, with the scores level, this one was there for the taking for both sides and it was Bates’ men who came out on the front foot.

The impressive Noble orchestrated the opener.

Beating a man on the right he tucked a ball across to Muir who was in the right place at the right time to nod in for 1-0.

On Saturday, it was Pools who bounced back from the disappointment of conceding, but it was the opposition who caught the hosts napping this time.

Within six minutes of edging in front for the first time this campaign, Pools were pegged back.

A low, searching cross was tapped home at the back post by Knowles.

The lead was restored quite brilliantly on 70 when a perfectly weighted ball from Magnay found Cassidy over the top – the striker took his time to get the effort away, but made no mistake when he did connect, rocketing high into the net from close range.

That looked to be that, as Pools seemed to be comfortable with their lead and Harrogate looked beaten.

But there was to be a sting in the tail.

Another cross to the back post caught Pools out and this time Howe was there to nod in another leveller.

In my time covering Pools through their darkest of days rarely have I heard goals celebrated like those two last night.

When Muir tucked home it almost took the roof off at the Town End.

That outpouring of emotion shows there is a willing, a want for the smallest crumb of success among the loyal fanbase.

They yearn to feel the joy, they’re desperate for this team to do well.

This shows just how much good work has been done by the new owner and the team around him.

Before Raj Singh rode in, hope was gone, this club was like a shadow of its proud former self.

Now, with some positive moves in the market and a new appointment or two, the crowds have flooded back, not with a weight of expectation, more with a real desire to get behind this team.

It’s like it’s the town’s club again. The club has reconnected with it’s fanbase.

And whatever happens on or off the park this season – providing it never gets as bad as the last campaign – they’re back, shoulder-to-shoulder with this football club. And that’s a very special thing indeed.