Hartlepool United suffer defeat to Hibernian in opening pre-season game as ex-Portsmouth and Doncaster Rovers striker misses out

Hartlepool United kicked off their pre-season campaign with a defeat to Hibernian in Portugal.

By Joe Ramage
Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 1:19 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 1:20 pm

Ewan Henderson and Ryan Porteous were the scorers for the Scottish Premiership side as Paul Hartley suffered defeat in his first game in charge of Pools.

Former Sunderland manager Lee Johnson was in charge of Hibs who enjoyed much of the possession in the Algarve as fans got their first glimpse of what Hartley’s side may look like this season.

Henderson capitalised on an error in defence by Pools as he smartly finished beyond Ben Killip via the foot of the post before Porteous doubled the Hibees’ lead in the second period of 30 minutes when heading beyond Patrick Boyes from Joe Newell’s corner.

Hartlepool United midfielder Tom Crawford went off injured early during the friendly with Hibernian. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

Hibs might have added to their lead, having been able to change their entire XI at the halfway stage, including a run out for ex-Sunderland winger Aiden McGeady, but both Boyes and Kyle Letheren made decent stops to deny Elie Youan and Elias Melkersen respectively.

And here are five things we learned from Pools’ defeat?

Lack of a striker

Hartley named his first starting line-up as Pools boss and the immediate concern came with the lack of goal scoring options within the team following the omission of January’s marquee signing Omar Bogle, as well as strike partner Marcus Carver.

Jake Hastie showed flashes of his pace during Hartlepool United's defeat to Hibernian. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

At face value, it appeared as though Joe Grey would be the man to lead the line for Pools but in practice that role fell to midfielder Tom Crawford with Grey in a wide left position.

And with no alternative striking options on the bench, the concern for Hartley is already clear as Pools struggled to really threaten the Hibs goal at all throughout the game.

In the omission of Bogle, Pools’ back-up option up front came via midfielder Mark Shelton who pushed into a more attacking role when Crawford was taken off, with little impact.

Crawford injury

Omar Bogle was not involved for Hartlepool United against Hibernian. (Credit: Michael Driver | MI News)

Pools’ attacking options were reduced inside 10 minutes when impromptu striker Crawford was forced off early in the game with a concerning injury.

Crawford landed hard on the edge of the area and appeared in some discomfort when being treated before he walked off clutching his arm.

Crawford enjoyed a strong run of form for Pools during the winter months of the 2021/22 season, earning himself a new two-year deal in the process, and will be a player Hartley is keen to use, particularly over the coming weeks, with his squad low on numbers.

The hope is Crawford’s setback won’t keep him out of action for too long, while fullback Jamie Sterry was also brought off late in the game which was perhaps more of a precautionary measure.

Cook-Trialist option

As Crawford was brought off, Hartley turned to a trialist who took Shelton’s place in midfield, with the former Salford City man moving into an advanced role.

Although striker Jordan Cook has travelled with the squad to Portugal, and is taking part in training, the former Sunderland striker joined Bogle and Carver in being unlisted for the fixture with the Scottish Premiership side.

Cook is out of contract at Pools but has been offered a new deal at the Suit Direct Stadium and it may be an agreement Hartley looks to get across the line over the coming days with his striking options seemingly threadbare.

Playing out from the back

While much of the possession went to Hibs, Pools did demonstrate what might be to come from Hartley’s philosophy when they have the ball, particularly when it comes to playing out from the back.

Hartley has suggested he wants his team to build through the thirds with speed and power and although the speed and power dynamics were a little off, as you would expect in an opening pre-season friendly, the first aspect of that did shine through - even to their detriment.

Hartley handed 30 minutes to each of his goalkeepers, Killip, Boyes and Letheren, and all three were keen to start play off by rolling, or passing, the ball out short to a defender.

At times there were some decent passages of play, with some assured one and two touch passing, however the style of play also resulted in the first goal being conceded.

Deep inside his own penalty area, under pressure from Hibs’ high-press, new signing Alex Lacey looked for Mouhamed Niang who again came under pressure from Jake Doyle-Hayes with the ball eventually landing at the feet of Henderson who dispatched beyond Killip.

It’s a lesson Hartley will be keen for his side to learn from, and you would much rather iron these things out in pre-season than when it comes to the business of the season.

But in playing out from the back, transitions in play can be turned over when inviting a high-press in what is very much a risk and reward strategy.

Hastie pace

At this early stage of pre-season the main focus is always about getting key minutes into players and building their fitness levels back up as opposed to focusing on any negatives in performances.

However, it is always pleasing to see some positives and one of those for Pools came in new signing Jake Hastie.

Hartley has suggested Hastie will be a player who will excite supporters this season and there were early glimpses of that with the 23-year-old’s pace in attack.

On occasion in the opening 30 minutes of the game, Hastie picked up the ball and was able to drive at the Hibs defence before a lack of end product brought things to an end.

But while those finer touches are developed over the coming weeks as training levels and games intensify, the potential of Hastie was shown in flashes during this opening game which can offer some encouragement to supporters.