Cambridge 1 Hartlepool United 1: Match analysis, Pools find their good side again

Jake Gray wheels away after scoring for Pools
Jake Gray wheels away after scoring for Pools

Talk about Jekyll and Hyde.

Hartlepool United went from the sublime to the riduculous when they followed up a great win over Wycombe with a horror story at Accrington.

Matthew Bates too made a magnificent return alongside Adam Jackson in a pairing which continues to grow


But they rediscovered their good side and regained considerable pride with this draw at Cambridge United.

It should have been three points, given they were just a midge’s fingernail from their fourth away win of the season, only to concede a last-minute equaliser to Ben Williamson.

Pools had the better chances and could have been out of sight as early as the 10th minute.

But it is one point more than they had on Saturday morning and it is draws like this which will help them consolidate their place in League Two.

It will be interesting to see where Pools will go from this result.

The previous Saturday, they had given themselves a platform to build on, only to chuck all the good work away at Accrington, albeit against a very talented side.

Should they go and beat Exeter, a team with a spring in their step and half an eye on the play-offs, this weekend then they can kick on in February when there are 18 points to play for.

Going back to the Jekyll and Hyde analogy, Pools looked a different animal at the Abbey Stadium.

Ronnie Moore chose to revert to a 4-4-1-1 formation and it worked a treat.

But it’s not just about systems it’s the men who operate them.

Jake Gray was restored to the starting XI and he played behind Ellis Harrison. Such was the Pools’ performance, the pair had seven chances between them.

OK, only one was converted but this signified real progress, the only downside being Moore must find a forward to lead the line against Exeter this Saturday after the striker made an early exit with an ankle/shin injury.

The system seemed to suit everyone – Nicky Featherstone looked much more at home in the deepest midfield role and Michael Woods was a man re-born further forward.

Lewis Hawkins made a good return on the right side and provides plenty of industry though Moore may take a hunch with Nathan Thomas at home, we will see.

At the back, Matthew Bates too made a magnificent return alongside Adam Jackson in a pairing which continues to grow.

Jackson took to the field on Saturday despite taking ill on Friday and spending the night before the match being sick.

Of course, the entire Pools squad and the 186 travelling fans were feeling just as sick when Keith Hill blew the full-time whistle.

Pools could have been sitting pretty long before that horrible feeling.

Jake Carroll, who had another fine game, sent over an inviting fifth-minute free-kick with Harrison hitting the inside of the post.

Somehow, it stayed out and somehow the ball ended up in the arms of keeper Will Norris after a big goalmouth scramble. Alas, the hands of Mr Norris were to frustrate Pools again and again.

Harrison first saw a promising left-foot shot deflected for a corner off Leon Legge before the on-loan forward was denied by a diving Norris save.

And the keeper’s follow up stop from Gray’s attempt from the rebound was probably even better.

Norris was at it again in the 17th minute, diving high to palm out a Jordan Richards free-kick for a corner.

Aside from a Karlan Ahearne-Grant shot which was miles wide and a looping Robbie Simpson header which Trevor Carson caught with ease, Cambridge had little in the way of opportunities.

A fair amount of ball? Yes. But was Carson’s goal ever in any great danger? No.

The pattern continued in the second half with Woods putting Gray through one-on-one with Norris in the 48th minute, only for the pesky goalie to come out on top.

And, unbelievably, he was at it again moments later in a repeat Norris v Gray battle inside the area.

Cambridge had not scored in five hours but they tried to remedy that by bringing on Barry Corr and the U’s started to apply pressure, but Carroll made a vital block inside his own area.

However, Pools finally got the goal they deserved in the 71st minute.

Woods was the provider, slipping Gray into the box and while Norris again got to the ball, this time he could not keep it out.

Cambridge had not really threatened the Carson goal, but they began to get closer, U’s skipper Mark Roberts nodding wide from a good position while Carson got down to his left to hold a Corr header.

But Pools had two more attacks which could easily have killed off the hosts.

Ten minutes from time, Woods drove forward into the box, only for Legge to execute a superbly-timed tackle and Rhys Oates got the better of right-back Darnell Furlong and played a delightful ball across the six-yard box.

Sub Rakish Bingham could not get there. Any sort of touch and it would have been goodnight Vienna.

You knew the kitchen sink would be thrown by the team in yellow and black and so it proved, but Carroll blocked magnificently from Corr and an Oates-like cross from out wide flashed in front of the away goal without anyone adding a finishing touch.

There was to be a sucker punch and, sadly, when it came, it bordered on the comical.

Legge hoofed a long ball from his own half and, in their desperation to defend, Hawkins, Richards and Bates all went for it. None of them succeeded and Williamson tucked it away from six yards, with Jackson’s lunge a fraction too late.

A bad end, but there was so much good.a