Roy Kelly's Analysis: The only way is up for Hartlepool United after Newport point

Progress in football is measured in points.

Wednesday, 16th March 2016, 10:05 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th March 2016, 10:11 am
Jake Carroll battles for the ball at Newport
Jake Carroll battles for the ball at Newport

And how Hartlepool United are beginning to measure up!

Craig Hignett is starting to get Pools moving in the right direction and last night’s excellent and deserved point at Newport County lifted the side to 21st.

It may not be a place in the Champions League but if Pools can get a place in the ‘teens’ then it could feel like that.

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Pools are now just three points behind Yeovil in 20th and only five behind 18th-placed Morecambe with two games in hand.

And Pools have every right to be looking up the table.

This was as good as they have been under Hignett, certainly in terms of their shape and solidity.

The back four of a rejuvenated Carl Magnay, Matthew Bates, Adam Jackson and Jake Carroll were excellent against a side who had won 3-0 at Portsmouth at the weekend.

And behind them, Trevor Carson was in imperious form with three tremendous bits of glovework.

However, this wasn’t just about a defensive effort, Nicky Featherstone, Lewis Hawkins and Jake Gray were superb in midfield with Billy Paynter again magnificent as the lone striker.

Pools, for all the difficulty of trying to perform on a Rodney Parade pitch with more sand than grass, looked to play football throughout.

And while the surface was testing for both teams, you suspect Pools may have been good bets for a third victory in a row had the pitch been truer.

Pools, not surprisingly given they had won the last two games 3-1, started with purpose.

A Thomas free-kick was met by the head of Adam Jackson, causing panic in home box but Newport got it clear.

County had their first sight of the away box in the 12th minute but Alex Rodman’s shot was booted away by Carl Magnay.

Pools were enjoying the better of possession and playing some nice football and the in-form Lewis Hawkins tried his luck from 22 yards, but keeper Joe Day gathered safely low down.

The Welsh side almost fluked an 18th-minute goal when left-back Andrew Hughes’s cross not far away from Trevor Carson goal with the goalie appearing to lose his footing.

Dean Morgan had the first real Newport ‘shot’ in the 25th minute but the striker was miles wide.

Pools had a scare when Carson rescued them three minutes later.

Matthew Bates could not get to hoof forward by Danny Holmes but the keeper came out to save at feet of Boden.

It was the best period for the side in amber with Hughes seeing his shot deflected over bar by Jackson.

Pools regained their rhythm and Jake Carroll found Hawkins who turned superbly to break into box but Day beat out his cross.

Hawkins felt he was being mauled by Janoi Donacien but referee Simon Hooper waved away his protests

Before the interval, Pools broke from a Carson kick, through James who ran well before Gray had his shot blocked.

Pools thought they had a chance from a Thomas set-piece but Jackson was penalised for climbing.

Hignett’s side continued where they left off in the second half and Gray drove a shot into the side-netting after being found by Carson.

Carroll almost blotted his copybook 10 minutes into the second half when he pushed over Boden on the touchline.

Other refs may have reached for his cards, but Simon Hooper instead gave him a ticking off.

Pools regained their composure and a great ball from Magnay sent Gray into box but Paynter could not get a connection with his pull-back.

Paynter was still at the heart of the away play and he tried to chip Day from inside the box but could not lift it over the goalie, when a low blast may have been a better option.

Carson again came to Pools rescue 20 minutes from time when he made a great save to his right from a Medy Elito thunderbolt from 25 yards.

And the Northern Ireland international was at it again 12 minutes from time.

Rodman had been dangerous throughout for Newport and when Jackson tripped him 20 yards out, County had a free-kick in a threatening position.

Half-time sub Jake Gosling lifted his left-footer over the blue wall and Carson was required to tip it over.

Pools continued to go forward and Luke James shot wide after lay-back by sub Rhys Oates.

There was no suggestion of Pools just playing out time for a draw and Day got down well to his right to save a low Gray drive.

Pools carried on attacking but Paynter could not get to an Oates cross.

Another measure of how the team has improved was how Pools saw out time - in control.

They could not snatch a winner but a point in South Wales represented progress for Pools. Progress with a capital P.