ROY KELLY ANALYSIS: Shocking display leaves Hartlepool on the brink - players must respond quickly
Needed for Northern Gas & Power Stadium: Mirrors. Lots of mirrors.
For Hartlepool United’s players and coaching staff to have a look at themselves.
Make no mistake, Pools are destined for relegation.
The hurt felt by those players who collapsed to the floor on Dean Whitestone’s full-time whistle at Brisbane Road will be nothing compared to the pain of that fall through the Football League trapdoor.
Pools were utterly clueless at both ends of the park and weak in between as they were outplayed and outfought by the worst League team in the country.
Leyton Orient extended their stay in League Two by at least five days thanks to only their fifth home victory of the season and 10th in total.
Top marks must go to the Eastenders, who fielded just THREE senior players, the rest were run-all-day kids who did their young caretaker boss, Omer Riza, their shirt and club proud.
Their opponents should be hanging their heads.
There will never be a better opportunity to put some daylight between themselves and Newport in 23rd.
With the Welsh side annihilated 6-1 at Plymouth, even a streaky 3-2 win for Pools, while undeserved, would have been welcome.
But Pools could not hit the proverbial cow’s rear with a banjo.
Dave Jones’s side have a one-point advantage over County but, despite their thumping yesterday, you’d put money on them beating Accrington and Notts County at home.
That means Pools probably need to win at least two of their last three fixtures - Barnet (H), Cheltenham (A) and Doncaster (H).
Jones fronted up afterwards - lesser men may have despatched their assistant to face the Press - but his assertion that some players “froze” beggars belief.
If they freeze at, no disrespect to the O’s, an inferior team four fences from home, what are they going to be like against Barnet on Saturday, when anything less than a win is almost certain to put them in the bottom two?
Or at Cheltenham, who seem to be making a successful fist of their fight for survival?
Or at home to championship-chasing Doncaster in the last day of the season when the club could fall out of the Football League?
No, the Pools team need those mirrors to see whether they are mice or men?
Very few emerged from yesterday’s embarrassment with any credit.
Yet, it could have been so different.
Leyton Orient are bottom for a reason - they can’t keep the ball out of their net.
And when Rhys Oates gave Pools an eighth-minute lead, that should have been the cue for them to take the game by the scruff of the neck and put the O’s to bed.
Oates did well, showing strength and composure under heavy pressure to beat Sam Sargeant from six yards.
The lead lasted 10 minutes as Pools were undone by two teenagers.
Michael Clark skinned Liam Donnelly down the right and his low cross was slammed in high and first time by Victor Adeboyejo, giving Joe Fryer little chance at his near post.
Pools though again exposed Orient’s fallibility at the back five minutes later when Oates did great work to release Padraig Amond.
The top scorer laid it on a plate for Lewis Alessandra who had the whole goal to aim at, only to shoot tamely at Sargeant.
Fryer kept Pools on level terms with a point-blank reaction save from Adeboyejo who also shot just wide from a narrow angle.
The O’s had threatened a second and it duly came in the 34th minute.
Goal one came via two 19-year-olds with two 18-year-olds combining for the second.
Steven Alzate did the spadework to set up Tristan Abrahams who shot home superbly with his left foot.
Jones removed Nicky Deverdics at the break, though there were seven or eight other candidates.
He sent on Michael Woods who he had dropped and he soon made an impact, powering forward and almost getting in Oates, with Sandro Semedo making a last-ditch interception.
Soon after, Woods was involved five times in a 14-pass move which ended with no one in the six-yard box when Alessandra drove the ball across the face of goal.
It did offer promise, but for all the promise there was no end result.
There were shouts for a penalty when a defender seemed to handle when under pressure from Amond and from a Nathan Thomas shot. And there were appeals too when Alessandra went down. Each time, Mr Whitestone said no.
Orient had a golden chance when Abrahams was in on goal but Fryer produced a stunning save.
Pools then squandered a great chance in the 67th minute. Thomas played a delightful cross in which Oates missed completely, with the ball eluding the unmarked Amond behind him.
In Amond’s defence he surely could not have expected his comrade to get nothing on the cross.
Amond could not get a clean connection shortly afterwards, but to see the leading scorer subbed was baffling, even more so when the replacement was Devante Rodney rather than Louis Rooney.
Pools had a late fling with further unanswered pleas for a spot-kick when Thomas went down, but the ref looked spot-on with his decision.
A point for Pools would have given some crumb of comfort but they could not even manage that, yet they had the perfect chance.
Thomas was the provider, teeing up Oates who fluffed his shot from six yards with Aron Pollock clearing off the line.
The dreadful afternoon was capped when Donnelly chased Mr Whitestone after he awarded a goal-kick rather than a corner, with Pools claiming Thomas’s shot was deflected by a home player.
He was inches away from the official when he roared his discontent.
Mr Whitestone showed him a yellow card when a red was probably merited and when Donnelly would not leave him alone produced a second yellow and his marching orders.
An embarrassing end to a humbling day.