If Hartlepool United can find a way to lose a game of football this season, they do it.

Monday, 21st November 2016, 5:20 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd November 2016, 10:20 am
Toto Nsiala challenges Doncaster's Pools old boy James Coppinger

Not my words, this pearl of wisdom came from manager Craig Hignett in his post-match, post-mortem from the Keepmoat Stadium.

I have to say, I agree with the gaffer - he’s got it absolutely spot on.

Time and time again Pools contrive to shoot themselves in the foot, and Saturday’s last-gasp 2-1 loss to Doncaster was the perfect example.

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The home side took the lead courtesy of top-scorer John Marquis before Pools got back on level terms thanks to a Padraig Amond spot-kick.

But with the game petering out and a draw seeming likely, Liam Mandeville popped up with a late winner to break Hignett’s men’s resolve.

The end result was harsh on Pools, who were, in the main, decent on the day. They were far from their best but fully deserving of a point, at least.

But the reality of things is that, yet again, they’ve come away on a Saturday evening talking about defensive lapses costing them dear.

Now, if this was a one off, you could accept it, write it off and move on.
Sadly, this is almost becoming a weekly occurrence.

Game after game, the same issues keep popping up, no matter who the personnel.

Play well, for most of the game, but at key moments in the match Pools switch off.

Whether it be a red card here, a penalty there, or just simply not doing a job properly.

There is absolutely no doubt that there is talent in abundance in the Pools dressing-room, but application, at times, is becoming a serious issue.

And if this problem is not addressed sharpish, Pools will be looking down rather than up, no matter what Hignett & Co say to the contrary.

On the selection front, Trevor Carson retained his place in the side despite having to pull out of the Northern Ireland squad in the week after dislocating his finger in the 2-0 win over Cheltenham.

Liam Donnelly dropped out of the side through injury with Jordan Richards coming on the right hand side of the back four.

It was the hosts who started the brighter of the sides and had the ball in the net early doors only for the referee to rule it out. Toto Nsiala was adjudged to have been fouled before Marquis turned the ball home.

Marquis was again at the centre of the action, this time it was Carson who was equal to his effort making a smart save from close range to deny the in-form frontman.

But he could only keep the former Millwall trainee quiet for so long - on 24 minutes his header found the back of the net, and was this time given the green light by the officials.

Strangely, despite Donny’s dominance, it came in a period where Pools themselves looked set to grab the opener.

Doncaster keeper Marko Marosi was forced off with an injury and the first action sub Ross Etheridge saw was to gift the ball to Amond on the edge of the home area.

Taking a touch the Irishman curled at goal, but instead of nestling in the far corner the ball crashed off the upright and clear.

Unfazed, Doncaster instantly broke, and one simple cross from the left found the head of Marquis who made no mistake to net his 10th League Two goal of the campaign.

But just as they looked to be cruising Pools were handed a lifeline.

The impressive Amond was inexplicably bundled over on the edge of the area, despite having his back to goal and little danger around, and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

The frontman had to keep his nerve, though, as the game was halted for three minutes prior to the decision and the kick itself, as sub keeper Etheridge, very shaky to this point, had to receive treatment on a hand problem, which was later diagnosed as a break.

Amond finally got the chance to take his penalty, and with all the calm assurance in the world he slotted straight down the middle for 1-1.

At half-time the game was there for the taking. Defend properly, as they had done for much of the opening half and a point, at the very least, was heading back up the A1.

But defending properly and Hartlepool aren’t exactly terms that have set well together this campaign.

Pinned into their own half for much of the second 45 Pools did show plenty of defensive resolve. Nsiala set the trend from the back with his tenacious tackling and quick reactions to keep the home side at bay, while further forward the likes of Nicky Deverdics and Josh Laurent showed there is more to their game than just attacking talent.

And the 661 Pools fans thought they had the winner with a quarter hour left on the clock. Deverdics cut in from the left and curled a right-footed effort at goal, but it was inches past Etheridge’s far post, with the keeper rooted to the spot.

But they were to be left heartbroken at the close, with the game seemingly heading for a draw, a cross from the left found its way to Mandeville and the wideman made no mistake from close range.

It was a harsh end to the clash for Pools, but an all too familiar one.