Hartlepool United looking for a response in home opener with AFC Wimbledon

Paul Hartley is hoping for an immediate response from his Hartlepool United players after being on the wrong end of a disappointing defeat at Walsall to begin the new campaign.

By Joe Ramage
Thursday, 4th August 2022, 6:00 am

Pools got their League Two season off to a nightmare start, losing 4-0 to the Saddlers , with Hartley admitting he was left 'shocked' by the level of performance from his players on his first taste of English football as a manager.

But Pools will get the opportunity to put things right this weekend when they return to the Suit Direct Stadium for the first time in the league this season as they host recently relegated AFC Wimbledon.

“I’ve been there as a player. I’ve been there as a manager. I’ve had bad results. It’s how you react and bounce back from results and I’m sure we will,” said Hartley.

Paul Hartley is keen to see a reaction from his side as Hartlepool United host AFC Wimbledon. Picture by FRANK REID

“I brought the players in, so it’s up to me to try and galvanise them and show a bit of mentality.

“We still want to try and bring a couple of players in, [but] it's a wake up call.

“We knew anyway that it was going to be tough, but hopefully it woke the players up.”

Despite the result however, Hartley remains confident in his philosophy and will look to see his side on the front foot in front of the home supporters this weekend.

Hartlepool United host AFC Wimbledon in their first home game of the season at the Suit Direct Stadium. (Credit: Will Matthews | MI News)

“We still keep doing the same things. If I change the way I want to do things, and change the style, then it’s not the way the players want to see me,” said Hartley.

“I said that to the players after the game. I’ll take responsibility for the style and how we want to work.”

Although Hartley has had a taste of the Suit Direct Stadium atmosphere, with Pools hosting three home friendlies against Lincoln City, Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland, Saturday will be his first experience of competitive action in the home dugout.

And speaking when he was first appointed as the club’s new manager in June, Hartley was quick to acknowledge the importance of the Pools fans this season.

“We want to be relentless. We want to make our home pitch a fortress next season and I think we’ll need the supporters for that,” Hartley said.

“I know they’re a noisy bunch of fans. We’ve got to give them a team on the pitch so that they can get right behind them.”

Pools welcome a Wimbledon side under new management themselves after the Dons appointed former Charlton Athletic boss Johnnie Jackson at the end of last season following their relegation from League One.

And Jackson got off to the best possible start last week when his side overcame another recently relegated side in Gillingham at Plough Lane thanks to unanswered strikes from Ethan Chislett and Jack Currie.

Similar to Pools, the Dons have had a busy summer of transition as they look for an immediate return to League One.

Pools have won all three meetings with the Dons at the Suit Direct Stadium including the most recent of which in 2016 when Adam Jackson’s header was enough to separate the two sides.