Analysis: It couldn’t have gone much worse for Hartlepool

Luke Williams scores from a free-kick
Luke Williams scores from a free-kick

The Victoria Park pitch has undergone a major £30,000 refurbishment during the off-season.

It has resulted in a sublime surface, a green carpet good enough to grace the Premier League.

Michael Duckworth in action for Hartlepool United during their 4-0 home defeat at the hands of Scunthorpe United. Picture by FRANK REID

Michael Duckworth in action for Hartlepool United during their 4-0 home defeat at the hands of Scunthorpe United. Picture by FRANK REID

And Pools fans will be hoping the football played on it will be far better than the dross they had to watch for the bulk of last season.

But Ronnie Moore’s side still has an awful lot of work to do on the basis of last night’s defeat to Scunthorpe United.

The game against League One Scunthorpe was always going to be a far tougher test than the four games played so far against non-league opposition.

That was a given and while you have to give credit if a team is simply better, Pools looked off the pace.

Michael Woods

Michael Woods

Rakish Bingham struggled to maintain possession up front, there were defensive errors from Scott Harrison, Dan Jones and Harry Worley and the ball wasn’t passed quickly enough.

Pools also struggled to create chances.

Still, the Football League season is over a fortnight away and Moore has previously conceded his squad have been busy working on their fitness, with more technical work to come.

But Pools will need to be far sharper, quicker and maintain possession better when the real footy begins.

Moore will no doubt be keen to draw a line under the result and use it as an early learning curve.

Yet he did, at least, give the strongest indication yet of what his first team is likely to be this season. Or what he had originally planned, at least.

New signings Trevor Carson, Worley, Carl Magnay, Jake Carroll, Bingham and Billy Paynter all started, with Jones and Harrison alongside Worley at the back in a 3-5-2 formation.

But there was no place for Kudus Oyenuga in the squad, the winger not involved as he builds his fitness at the training ground.

It wasn’t long before Iron began to flex their considerable League One muscles.

Captain Harrison’s mistake let in ex-Pools loanee Luke Williams who passed to Paddy Madden on the edge of the area. His low strike gave Carson no chance.

Six minutes later it was 2-0. Jordan Clarke allowed too much time to cross towards Madden, who had sneaked between the Pools defence to power home a header from six yards.

Pools carved out their best chance after 26 minutes, Paynter hitting the crossbar with a firm header from a corner.

The hosts enjoyed more possession as the half wore on but struggled to create anything of note, with Scunthorpe quicker to everything.

The Iron extended their lead seven minutes into the second-half, Williams’ free-kick from 20-yards going straight in past a flat-footed Carson.

Williams deserved his goal, he was excellent and looked on a different level to the majority of players on the pitch.

Pools were poor.

It was flat off the pitch and flat on it too, a typical pre-season friendly but Moore won’t have been pleased with what he was watching.

It soon got worse, Madden capitalising on a mistake from Worley to score his hat-trick and make it 4-0 – despite the best efforts of Carson.

Bingham hit the post an hour in. Played in by Matthew Bates, the former Mansfield Town striker took it well but saw his effort rebound off the woodwork.

Michael Woods – who dislocated his ankle and fractured his fibula at the end of February – made his long-awaited return from injury after 65 minutes to rapturous applause from the crowd.

But he couldn’t inspire a dramatic comeback, with Pools drifting towards their first defeat of pre-season – and a heavy one at that.

After a promising start to pre-season, Pools will be hoping the wheels haven’t come off just yet and that the heavy defeat was simply an early wake-up call.

One thing is for sure, the display last night couldn’t have gone much worse.

Pools (3-5-2): Carson, Harrison (C), Worley, Jones (Duckworth, 45), Magnay, Bates (Woods, 65), Featherstone, Walker, Carroll (Whittle, 75), Bingham (Fenwick, 65), Paynter (Oates, 65).

Subs Not Used: Bartlett, Richards, Parnaby, Nelson-Addy, Smith.

Goal: Madden (10, 16, 57), Williams (52