Roy Kelly's Analysis: Pools do need a regular goalscorer
Football team needs goalscorer. Whether you view those four words as a statement or a job advert, it's hardly rocket science is it?
That is what every club and fan wants the world over but that particular line was delivered not by a supporter or stating-The-bleedin’-obvious journalist like me, but from Hartlepool United’s captain.
When Carl Magnay faced the media after Saturday’s loss to Eastleigh – the first defeat in six matches – his message was a clear one: If Pools are to be challenging for promotion, a 20-goal-per-season striker is required. As of yesterday.
His frankness may earn him a rebuke from his gaffers, who would probably prefer he did not speak so plainly about the club’s transfer policy.
However to be fair to Magnay, he was only saying what we were thinking after witnessing a ton of pressure against the Spitfires at Victoria Park only be rewarded by a solitary goal, a beauty from sub Jack Munns.
He was certainly saying what your SportMail reporter has highlighted.
Throughout the summer, this writer mentioned, more than once, that Pools needed to keep hold of Padraig Amond. Or if they were to sell him, they would need to splash out on a replacement.
The club, alas, did neither. Amond was sold to Newport County and no goal-getter was brought in.
Now, Pools are not in any form of crisis, far from it. Saturday’s set-back to Eastleigh, who won via two goals inside six minutes at the start of the second half – was a mere hiccup after a splendid run.
We are a quarter of the way through the National League programme and while 17th place is hardly what the doctor ordered, Pools are a mere five points off the play-offs and seven from top spot, hardly an Everest-style climb.
But the game did emphasise the need for a goalscorer. Pools have seen four depart since relegation, messrs Alessandra, Amond, Paynter and Thomas. Jake Cassidy was a very agood acquisition, but is injured, while Ryan Donaldson and Munns, who opened his Pools account in the last minute against the Spitfires, should chip in with goals, so too teenage prospects, Devante Rodney and Connor Simpson.
Jonathan Franks and Rhys Oates are terrific players and workers, but neither have been prolific scorers.
With Scott Loach between the sticks and with an improved defence, Pools might not need a Jimmy Greaves, but the table shows, Wrexham aside, that the team is a few goals shy of those in the top seven.
Perhaps if a few of the chances had fallen to Franks, who is in a rich vein of form, the outcome may have been different. Sadly, they didn’t.
Mind you, to be writing about wasted opportunities seems remarkable, given how the match looked at the midway stage.
The match was no classic – just one attempt at goal and three corners in the first half. Hell, the first offside didn’t arrive until the 39th minute!
You could see why Eastleigh are the division’s draw specialists. To be fair to boss Richard Hill, injuries have robbed him of seven players, but they were happy to suck the life out of the game from the off.
Pools did not aid their cause with some wasteful passing, but when they did get the ball moving, a slick four-man move ended with Donaldson whistling a 32nd-minute shot over Graham Stack’s crossbar.
All it needed was Pools to come out for the second half and up the ante.
Sadly, Eastleigh ripped up the script, skipper Callum Howe forcing their second corner of the game in from close range in the 47th minute when Pools struggled with a ball at the near post.
It got worse as the Spitfires doubled the lead, this time with a stunner as Mark Yeates, one of the team’s many old hands, rifling a superb half-volley beyond Loach fro the right of goal after Pools had failed to defend their box.
Pools boss Craig Harrison acted immediately and sent on Simpson and Rodney and both would make their presence felt, Simpson with his height and Rodney with his direct running.
Rodney had the opening of the match in the 67th minute when Nicky Featherstone found him all alone in the area, but his shot was straight at Stack who saved well. Simpson went over with a good opening soon after, while Stack comfortably collected a low Rodney shot and Munns went just wide following a corner.
Rodney’s pace almost took him clear in the 85th minute but Howe made a great tackle.
Harrison sent Louis Laing up top late on and Pools finally gained some reward in the last minute when Munns made space for himself just outside the box and his left-foot shot was pecise into Stack’s left-hand corner.
There was time for one more sight at goal in the four minutes of added time, but Rodney’s effort was saved by Stack.