Pools analysis: Hartlepool United being such a soft touch away from home will keep them in trouble
Just three wins will do it.
That is the assessment of BBC Tees summariser and pundit, Eddie Kyle.
The Scot, who was Hartlepool United assistant boss during, arguably, the club’s most successful period, knows more about football than this reporter. Much more.
In fact, Eddie has probably forgotten more than your SportMail man will ever know. I hope he’s right because Pools appear intent on taking the battle for survival to the bitter end.
Pools continue to be a soft touch on their travels after succumbing to second-half goals by Shola Ameobi and Jorge Grant as Notts County clambered over them in the table. Three wins could be good enough – that would take Dave Jones’s team to 47 points and that’s a big ask for the only two clubs worse than Pools, Newport County and Leyton Orient.
The Eastenders show no signs of a recovery, their limp 3-0 home defeat to Grimsby on Saturday ensured the gap remains at six points, while the Welsh side narrowed the difference to nine points with their second victory in four months at the weekend.
You don’t need three guesses to answer who the other win came against!
Pools are keeping the hopes of Orient and Newport flickering, no matter how weakly, because of their hopeless away form.
The record of Pools at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium is one to be proud of – three wins and two draws under Jones with 11 goals scored and only two conceded. Away from home, Pools are a soft touch, five defeats in a row for their new boss and 10 in total since their last victory with draws at Portsmouth and Accrington the only ‘bright’ spots.
While Pools could win three at the Vic, it’s not that simple. for a start, there are only five fixtures left on home turf and two of them are Portsmouth and Doncaster, two clubs looking nailed on for League One.
You could mark down Wycombe and Barnet as bankers, but Carlisle, desperately trying to stay in the promotion picture will be no gimme.
Pools, therefore, are probably going to have to do something on one of their five remaining awaydays.
It would ease the heart-strings of fans if they could pick up three points tomorrow night at Cambridge though seeing the U’s clinically take apart Carlisle 3-0 on Saturday hardly fills you full of optimism.
All Pools fans – and there were over 400 at Meadow Lane on Saturday – would welcome a grim goalless draw at the Abbey Stadium, just to “put the wedge in” to use an old Ronnie Moore-ism.
Ronnie was rarely shy to let the players know his and feelings and his fellow son of Liverpool bared his teeth for the first time on Saturday.
Jones admitted he was “angry” after Saturday’s 2-1 set-back to the Magpies.
Not with the football – there was enough threat posed by Pools who looked comfortable in possession.
Comfortable is a word you could use for the patched-up defence which lost in-form Brad Walker before kick-off.
The 20-year-old missed out with ankle trouble, the same ailment which kept Matthew Bates off the team bus.
Jones turned the back four into a back three but the re-shaped unit of Nicky Featherstone, Scott Harrison and Liam Donnelly were not unduly stretched.
The only real moments of concern in the first half came when Grant went to ground twice under challenges in the box in the 25th minute. Referee Darren Deadman refused to be swayed by the appeals and Pools escaped.
Alas, not for long.
Featherstone made two vital blocks in the box and from the resulting corner from the left, Lewis Hawkins contrived to concede a penalty for handball with no-one near him.
The scene was set for Ameobi to score his first goal since joining the ‘other’ Magpies. But keeper Joe Fryer guessed correctly from the ex-Newcastle forward, diving to his right to tip the ball onto his right upright, with Kenton Richardson clearing into touch.
Pools were not short of attacking promise with Lewis Alessandra, buoyed by his recent goal burst, and being serenaded by the travelling support, invariably pulling the strings.
Rhys Oates was again the catalyst up front. First he was muscled out by Haydn Hollis and Richard Duffy and beaten by a last-ditch Marc Bola tackle. The forward also went down under a challenge by Duffy but Mr Deadman was not fooled. Padraig Amond was almost in courtesy of a home mistake – and there was no shortage of those – but keeper Adam Collin came out to collect.
At half-time, it looked too close to call. All Pools had to do was keep it tight and wait for League Two’s leakiest defence to come undone.
Famous last words. It was Pools who sprung a leak within two minutes of the re-start, Grant slipping a through ball to Ameobi who had the run on Featherstone and finished low from 14 yards with his right boot.
It was a neat finish from the old stager and Pools were undone by a beauty from the young pretender in the 71st minute.
If you were leaving anyone unmarked it probably would not be Grant, who had scored four in his last five games. However, Pools did just that. They cleared a corner to the edge of the box, where Grant took a touch and fired a right-foot rocket high into Fryer’s net.
It was worthy of clinching any match, but it was not quite game, set and match. Pools fought back in the 78th minute, Oates producing a great run and cross from the left which Amond, cleverly and unselfishly, let run through to Thomas. He thought he had his 10th of the season only for Duffy to clear off the line. Lady luck was with Pools and the ball hit Hollis and found its way into the home net.
Thomas had another shot in injury time from outside the box after a good Pools move, but his effort was straight at Collin.