Hartlepool United 2-2 Boreham Wood analysed – what did we learn from Dave Challinor's first home match in charge?
Hartlepool United may have had a new manager in the dugout at Victoria Park but there was a very familiar feeling about the opening 70-minutes against Boreham Wood on Saturday afternoon.
Recent away performances and Dave Challinor’s appointment as manager brought with it plenty of expectation for Hartlepool United’s first home match under their new boss.
The former AFC Fylde manager had picked up an impressive 4-1 victory at Yeovil Town in his first match in charge before following that up with a 2-2 draw at Ebbsfleet United. Pools had led the game 2-0 following a scintillating first half display before being pegged back by the 10-man Fleet late on.
This weekend saw the tables turn somewhat as Boreham Wood came out of the blocks far quicker than their hosts at The Vic.
Pools started with the same 11 for the sixth game running but it was The Wood start started the brighter as they applied a lot of the early pressure.
Luke Garrard’s side were everything Dave Challinor’s men would have hoped to be early on as they pegged Pools back and moved the ball around with pace and conviction.
Even when Hartlepool were able to get out of their own half, the visitors proved dangerous on the counter attack with the pace of Sorba Thomas, Tyrone Marsh and top scorer Kabongo Tshimanga proving to be a threat.
The home side started to get back into it after a slow start as Ryan Donaldson burst forward before feeding in Gavan Holohan whose close range effort was well blocked by goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore. The midfielder had netted six in his last eight in all competitions going into the game but it just wasn’t to be his afternoon.
At the other end, Wood full-back Kane Smith was having plenty of joy down Hartlepool’s left side as he made Mark Kitching’s first half difficult as he put in several dangerous balls into the box.
And it’s from that side where the opening goal came from as the ball found its way into the penalty area from the left and just as the danger looked to have been cleared, the referee pulled play back and awarded a penalty kick.
The decision brought with it a sense of confusion as even after full-time, the players weren’t entirely sure what it was given for though the general feeling was that Michael Raynes may have impeded one of the opposing players.
Still, the penalty was given and convincingly dispatched by Thomas to give Boreham Wood the lead.
Moments after, Marsh’s close range header crashed back off the left hand post as the score remained 0-1.
As half-time approached, United thought they’d found an equaliser, as did half the stadium. Nathan Ashmore’s parry fell into the path of Nicke Kabamba who appeared to have bundled the ball over the line.
The Mill House stand were on their feet applauding but something wasn’t right, the players weren’t celebrating and play was still ongoing. The Pools players were protesting but neither the referee or linesman felt the ball had crossed the line.
In real time it certainly appeared as though the ball was in though images of the incident suggest that things were far tighter than first appeared. It would have been a very tough call for the officials to make either way and instead it must go down as a fairly remarkable save from Ashmore.
There was another contentious incident straight after as Nicky Featherstone chopped down Marsh inside the away side’s half. The visiting team quickly surrounded the referee with goalkeeper Ashmore making a 40-yard dash to make his feelings known.
There were certainly calls for a straight red card but the Pools man was let off with a warning which seemed to be the correct decision on reflection. The booking does mean that Featherstone must avoid a caution at Chesterfield on Tuesday night in order to avoid a suspension.
Then the sides went in at half-time with the score still at 1-0. Pools had their chances but were ultimately second best in almost every area which was uncharacteristic of their recent displays.
Shortly after the restart, things went from bad to worse for the hosts as Tshimanga pounced to double Boreham Wood’s advantage with a clinical finish after being slipped in by Justin Shaibu.
Trailing 2-0 at home after 50-minutes suggested that there wouldn’t be a quick fix under Challinor, who will require time to implement his style effectively on the side.
But the performance so far was as poor as we’d seen from Pools all season. Things weren’t staying the same and they certainly weren’t getting better, they were getting worse.
Something needed to be done and pleasingly the coaching team acted swiftly with three substitutions and a change of system. That proved to be effective as the momentum finally started to swing in favour of the hosts.
And things really started to take shape when Featherstone – a player who may have been lucky to still be on the pitch if you’re of a Boreham Wood persuasion – received Ryan Donaldson’s short pass and whipped the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal from 20-yards.
It was just the goal Pools needed at just the right time. They now had 20-minutes to find an equaliser and complete a two goal comeback for the first time this season.
But The Wood reacted well and twice came close to scoring in quick succession with Peter Kioso and Ben Killip producing heroic blocks to keep the score at 2-1. Those efforts would prove to be as important as any goal should the hosts go on to get something from the game.
And that’s exactly what they did as Kitching burst into the penalty area and won a late penalty for Pools. Following a brief stoppage to deal with a young pitch invader, substitute Gime Toure stepped up and levelled the score from 12-yards.
For once, it was nice to see Hartlepool show real character to come from two down to earn a point after being on the receiving end of such results in recent weeks.
But by full-time they may have been disappointed not to have nicked all three points as Luke James’ stoppage time header went narrowly wide of the right post.
Overall, a point isn’t good enough for Pools at the moment but it could have been a whole lot worse. It’s now just one defeat in eight matches so things are generally improving and Saturday’s result will start to look a whole lot better should they pick up a victory at Chesterfield on Tuesday night.