Eastleigh 2-1 Hartlepool United: Pools show plenty of intent but lack incision in National League defeat

Hartlepool United’s trip to Eastleigh has for a long time felt somewhat cursed.

Tuesday, 16th February 2021, 6:51 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th February 2021, 6:56 pm

It was first abandoned, then re-arranged and then - when eventually played on Tuesday evening - resulted in a disappointing defeat for Pools.

The delay in the fixture meant this was a game with major ramifications at the top of the table, as two promotion hopefuls looked to show their credentials.

Games of this nature can often be slow-burners, but one moment of indecision with just 40 seconds on the clock ensured that wouldn’t be the case on this occasion.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Eastleigh 2-1 Hartlepool United: Pools show plenty of intent but lack incision in National League defeat

As Timi Odusina looked to shepherd the ball back through to goalkeeper Ben Killip a brief moment of indecision between the pair proved costly – as Eastleigh’s Ben House nipped in to steal possession before rounding the stopper and firing home from a tight angle.

It was a nightmare start for Pools, but they looked to hit back in an opening to the game which was notably cagey.

Gavan Holahan and Rhys Oates both tried their luck from range only to be denied by home ‘keeper Joe McDonnell as the visitors offered plenty of intent while being some way short of their incisive best..

Hartlepool were in the ascendancy, but a hammer-blow would be delivered just before the half hour mark - Jack Payne’s in-swinging corner met by the head of Tyrone Barnett, who steered home from close range.

Pools, though, still sensed the contest wasn’t over and dominated possession as the half drew to a close. But their chances were still categorised as eager rather than explicit, with David Ferguson and Holahan both seeing shots from outside the area fail to really test McDonnell.

The second half continued in a similar vein as the visitors committed bodies forward in search of a leveller and, while finding themselves in some promising positions, failed to muster a clear-cut opportunity.

Eastleigh though, while seeing far less of the ball, were still forging opportunities.

Barnett came close to a third when he took a long ball down his chest and powered a half-volley off the post – as Pools called for an offside flag which never came.

That let-off sparked another spell of pressure from the visitors and cracks were beginning to show in the home defence.

A relentless siege of set-plays and crosses put the Spitfires under some serious pressure and at times they could only hack clear and prepare for the next onslaught.

There was a big chance for Holahan – who fired narrowly over after the hosts couldn’t clear Ferguson’s cross – before the goal that Pools had been threatening all evening came in injury time.

Ferguson’s fine cross from the left caused havoc in the Eastleigh backline and substitute Joe Grey fired home on the volley from close range.

It proved to be merely a consolation though, as the hosts stood strong to see out injury time and claim the three points.

***

Hartlepool United XI: Killip, Cass (Grey 61), Odusina, Johnson, Sterry, Ferguson, Shelton (Donaldson 84), White, Holahan, Armstrong, Oates (Bloomfield 65)

Substitutes not used: Crawford, Liddle

Goals: Grey 90

Bookings: White 54, Ferguson 87

Eastleigh XI: McDonnell, Tomlinson, Boyce, Bird, Green, Smart (Miley 72), Hollands, Payne, Hill, Barnett (Blair 83), House (Smith 90)

Substitutes not used: Flitney, Bearwish

Goals: House 1, Barnett 27

A message from the Football Clubs Editor:

Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Hartlepool United coverage 365 days a year.

Your support is much appreciated. Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor