Roy Kelly's analysis: Hartlepool must build on win at Barnet

'We're staying up' sang the Hartlepool United fans at the final whistle at the Hive.

Monday, 7th March 2016, 9:42 am
Nathan Thomas scores Pools' third goal at Barnet

But you will forgive me if I don’t join in yet.

It’s looking brighter, much brighter, but it’s too early to get carried away.

This is rather like the moment when you have got the first three lottery numbers but you hold off ringing to order the 90-foot yacht in Monte Carlo.

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Poolies have been here before – the brighter situation, not the yacht, though Gary Coxall might consider a weekend for the lads in the playboy retreat if they keep producing this sort of result.

If is the operative word here.

Seven days ago, life looked rosy again for Pools after Craig Hignett’s side had pushed Northampton to the limit, only to be caned at Bristol Rovers on Tuesday.

This was the perfect response to the Memorial Stadium debacle and the Billy Smart’s Circus defending which had characterised the ‘performance’.

Pools have been looking to score a few since the arrival of Hignett – and this three-goal blast was only the second time this season they have bulged the opposition net three times.

And all three were absolute pearlers as Lewis Hawkins struck twice inside six minutes before the break and Nathan Thomas after the interval.

Both players have been threatening a goal and they will hopefully go on to add more in the coming weeks and lift the weight on the shoulders of Billy Paynter and Jake Gray.

But, for all the beauty of finding the net, any great away win is built at the back – and this was no exception.

Hignett said afterwards that “you will not see a better debut” than the one produced by Rob Jones.

And it would be hard to argue with the manager on that score.

Jones was the proverbial tower of strength. And strength is just what Pools need in the remaining 14 matches of the season, eight of which are away from Victoria Park.

Ronnie Moore often bemoaned the lack of leaders, the absence of talkers on the pitch.

Hignett witnessed that last Tuesday at Bristol Rovers and, doubtless, was horrified.

Jones had only trained with Pools for a couple of weeks to keep his fitness up after being relased by Doncaster Rovers last month.

After coming through a reserve-team win against Newcastle United in midweek, Hignett offered him a contract until the end of the season.

It could prove an incredible bit of business, should Pools stay up. And, having watched Jones for 90 and a bit minutes at the Hive you get the impression there will be no relegation while he is in that team.

For someone who had ‘only’ trained with Pools, he settled in seamlessly. You heard him talking to his team-mates and also heard a shout or two if something went wrong which, thankfully, was few and far between.

You sensed an afternoon marking the Barnet man-mountain John Akinde was very much the cup of tea for Jones, all 6ft 7in of him – he was not marking a Jamie Vardy.

He won all his tackles, battles, headers etc. In fact he headed the ball for miles. While you should not always judge a book by its cover, the first few pages of Rob Jones were very good.

Jones slotted in alongside Matthew Bates, who was equally good, while Carl Magnay was much improved from Tuesday night, with Jake Carroll again superb on the left side.

On the subject of sides, Hignett had swapped Thomas and Luke James and it looked a good shout by the boss.

Thomas had cut in nicely off the right touchline and let fire with a left-foot shot which was not a million miles away from Hamie Stephens’ top right corner.

The winger also played one of the passes of the match from a similar position to put James through only for the striker to shoot straight at the keeper who saved with his legs.

By that point, Pools were one down, Fumnaya Shomotun using his left foot to great effect. He cut along the edge of the Pools area and he blasted his shot into Trevor Carson’s top right corner.

Barnet had the better of play and possession and there clearly was a fear of ‘oh no, not again’ after Tuesday’s collapse. There was no repeat.

Pools were level in the 34th minute with a sensational first Hawkins goal for the club. He picked up a Barnet clearance, 30 yards out and the home side cordially invited the midfielder to have a crack.

Hawkins obliged, hitting a stunner with his right foot into Stephens’ right corner.

Barnet’s players clearly had not learned their lesson. Just six minutes after affording time and space to Hawkins they were as generous again in the 40th minute.

James and Magnay did he spadework down the right, the full-back finding Paynter nicely. The skipper, with his back to goal, took the ball down and rolled it towards Hawkins with the message hit it.

The 22-year-old followed orders and his strike from 20 yards went into the keeper‘s left corner this time. Stephens did get a glove to it, but could not keep it out.

Stephens could not get near the match-clincher on 62 minutes. Carroll delivered a good ball from the left which Thomas took down on the opposite side of the field.

He moved sideways accross the box before pulling the left trigger and sending a bullet into the keeper’s right side of the net.

With Jones dominant at the back and the midfield so good, Pools controlled pretty much the entire second half – Barnet could offer nothing in response.

Only in injury time did they threaten the Carson goal but the keeper made a superb diving save low to his left to keep out a Matthew Stevens header.

Pools could, and should, be staying up, as the fans sang. The players must do this – again and again.