Ex-Chelsea midfielder says ruthless streak was missing
Michael Woods believes Hartlepool United are just a 'ruthless streak' away from being a League Two force.
Pools produced some good possession football at promotion-favourites Oxford United.
Indeed, Oxford, currently third in the table, were forced back on the defensive for long stretches.
But Pools fell short in one vital area – goals.
The hosts scored early, through Kemar Roofe in the seventh minute, but only sealed the deal three minutes into stoppage time via Liam Sercombe.
“We needed to create more going forward – that was the only difference,” said Woods.
“Speaking to the Oxford lads afterwards, they said we were the best footballing side they’d seen first half.
“It’s nice to hear but we need that ruthless streak in the final third.”
Pools went agonisingly near twice in the second half as they threatened to spoil the Oxford party, with the U’s celebrating the 30th anniversary of their League Cup triumph at Wembley.
Matthew Bates put a header just wide from a Nathan Thomas free-kick and Sercombe cleared off the line after Bates, again, and sub Rakish Bingham threatened from a Rhys Oates corner.
“Batesy’s had a great header in the second half, which has gone close,” said Woods.
“Nath flashed a cross right in front of the face of the goal in the first half as well.
“But their keeper’s not had enough to do.
“The first half was good, we played some decent stuff and got ourselves into good positions and the lads are now used to doing what the gaffer’s asking us to do.
“But we didn’t have the correct decision-making, that’s the fine line between the top of the league and being mid-table
“It was just that clinical streak in the last third we didn’t have.
“We’ve come to a team who are probably going to win automatic promotion and are majorly disappointed to leave with nothing.”
Woods was one of the principal performers, a real handful going forward, teaming up very slickly with his central colleagues, Nicky Featherstone and Lewis Hawkins.
But Woods told SportMail there was disappointment in the blue corner, despite the pride in the performance.
“First half, on the ball especially, it’s felt really good,” said the former Chelsea midfielder.
“It was a sloppy first goal and the second came right at the end when we were chasing the game.
“In terms of keeping the ball we were very good, they had the ruthless edge going forward that we didn’t.
“It was the final pass, the final ball, a bit of decision-making which let us down.
“The gaffer wants us to become a team like them, fighting for promotion sat the top end of the league.
“I don’t think there was much in it, bar the last third. “We need to cut out the daft mistakes, their first goal was poor, a bad goal to concede.”