Hartlepool United 0-2 Colchester United: Managerless Pools end the season with home defeat

Hartlepool United’s miserable end to the season was compounded with a fourth straight defeat at the Suit Direct Stadium against Colchester United.

By Joe Ramage
Saturday, 7th May 2022, 5:06 pm
Hartlepool United were beaten by Colchester United in their final game of the season. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

It was also the fourth straight home game without a goal to show for their endeavours as a nine game winless run mercifully comes to an end.

And yet the events on the pitch against Colchester were almost forced to take a back seat owing to the events which took place off the field this week after the club parted company with manager Graeme Lee.

Lee helped guide Pools to safety but was unable to see out the season as Michael Nelson and Antony Sweeney were handed first team duties for the final game of the season in place of Lee.

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Nelson and Sweeney made just one change to the side who were held by relegated Scunthopre United last week as Gary Liddle returned from a calf injury to replace midfielder Bryn Morris who was not part of the squad.

Liddle formed part of a back three alongside Rotherham United loan defender Jake Hull and Pools’ young player of the season Timi Odusina.

That allowed Jamie Sterry and David Ferguson, who importantly put pen to paper on a new two-year deal at the Suit Direct Stadium on the eve of the game, to play in a slightly more advanced role alongside Tom Crawford and Nicky Featherstone, who captained the side, in midfield.

Olufela Olomola was handed something of a free role behind Omar Bogle and Luke Molyneux, who may well have played his final game for Pools with his current deal set to expire and no deal having been agreed amid interest in his services from League One and the Scottish Premiership.

And, such has been the trend for Pools of late, they once again were unable to fill their substitutes bench with just four players available as Joe Grey joined Morris in missing out with just three outfield players named.

Pools did start the game brightly however and almost took the lead in the opening 60 seconds as Ferguson was allowed to advance from inside his own half towards the edge of the area before delivering a teasing cross into the six-yard box where Molyneux just couldn’t force the ball beyond Sam Hornby.

The visitors came back at Pools soon after as Freddie Sears escaped Odusina on the right and brought a good save from Ben Killip who then did well to deny Cameron Coxe’s follow up before Brendan Wiredu steered wide.

But the U’s hit the front moments later when John Akinde was on hand to convert into an empty net from Sears’ reverse with Pools defenders static waiting for an offside flag which did not come.

Ferguson fired a low effort on goal which forced Luke Chambers into sticking out a leg to turn behind for a corner which Liddle would head just wide from before Noah Chilvers capitalised on a mix-up between Liddle and Crawford only to drag wide.

Liddle set Pools on the counter-attack despite being under pressure from Akinde but Molyneux wasted a decent opportunity when failing to pick out Bogle.

The former Sunderland striker did test Hornby minutes later though he he latched onto a searching ball from Crawford and forced a save low to the keepers’ left.

Pools were forced into an early change when Sterry signalled his afternoon was over with Reagan Ogle his replacement as Chilvers brought another save from Killip with a dipping volley.

Akinde thought he had doubled Colchester’s lead early in the second half when finishing well off the post only for the linesman’s flag to come to the home side’s rescue.

But nothing could save Pools from Chay Cooper’s strike as the midfielder picked up the ball in the centre circle and was allowed to advance towards the Pools defence before unleashing an unstoppable effort which arrowed in off the post beyond a full-stretch Killip.

It was a strike which ended the game as a contest but even earned applause from the Pools supporters as Cooper wheeled away in front of a jubilant away end.

But despite being two goals behind, Cooper’s strike ignited a response from Pools supporters who used the final 30 minutes to go through their songbook in support of a team who, despite their end of season slump, have achieved what they set out to do this season.

Molyneux twice came close to giving the 5,275 in attendance something to shout about but was twice denied by two fine saves from Hornby who was determined to keep his clean sheet.

And when Hornby was beaten in the closing stages by Hull, after saving from Marcus Carver, U’s captain Tommy Smith was on hand to header clear from the line.

It comes as a relief the season is now over for Pools after a troubling run of form. But the positives have been there this season as well.

The vast majority of the home faithful remained to show their appraisal of players who shared their appreciation in a lap around the Suit Direct Stadium pitch.

It could be the final time we see some of these Pools players, who deserve their send off if that is the case having ensured league football once again next season, but one thing we know that will be different in August is who stands in the dugout as Pools’ search for a new manager begins.

Hartlepool United XI: Killip, Sterry (Ogle ‘40), Hull, Liddle (Smith ‘73), Odusina, Ferguson, Featherstone ©, Crawford, Olomola, Molyneux, Bogle (Carver ‘67)

Subs: Bilokapic

Colchester United XI: Hornby, Chambers, Smith ©, Wiredu (Bennett ‘61), Hannant, Judge (Cooper ‘45), Sears, Chilvers, Tchamadeu, Akinde (Ihionvien ‘70), Coxe

Subs: Eastmon, George, Kazeem, Cracknell