Echoes of last season? Liam Kennedy analyses Hartlepool United’s Ebbsfleet loss

Luke James has acrobatic attempt at goal during the Vanarama National League match between Hartlepool United and Ebbsfleet United at Victoria Park, Hartlepool on Saturday 11th August 2018. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News & Sport Ltd)
Luke James has acrobatic attempt at goal during the Vanarama National League match between Hartlepool United and Ebbsfleet United at Victoria Park, Hartlepool on Saturday 11th August 2018. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News & Sport Ltd)

It was difficult to really put a finger on exactly how Hartlepool United contrived to lose to Ebbsfleet on Saturday.

They defended reasonably well. Retained the ball, moved it well, looked a threat, sparingly. 
There was no player who you could pick out and say - ‘he had a bad game’.

My ratings reflected that. Sixes and sevens. This was a run of the mill week, where a draw was a fair result, even though Pools shaded possession and had the majority of the chances.

But this is not what decides football matches.

Making less mistakes and taking more chances than your opposition is what gets points on the board.

And it is for that very reason that Saturday’s Super 6 Stadium show felt like the Vic of last season, or the Northern Gas & Power of the year before.

The unwanted ghosts of seasons past came flooding back, and it’s down to the players of today to show this was a flash in the pan.

In fairness it looks like a one off. Pools were much better in their opening two fifth-tier games.

While they were on the front foot a lot more than their opponents they still did not knock on the door as much as manager Matthew Bates would have liked.

And it was ultimately the clinical edge which was missing.

The chances they put away against Maidstone and Harrogate, were missed. And one lapse at the back has again proved costly, when a draw looked the bare minimum Pools deserved from this encounter.

On to the match itself, The manager made two changes from the side who drew with Harrogate in midweek - in came Paddy McLaughlin and Kenton Richardson for Nicky Featherstone and Ryan Donaldson. There was no place on the bench for Michael Woods.

It was skipper Andrew Davies who looked the most likely to score for Pools in the opening 45 - he guided a volley from a corner narrowly wide before hitting the roof of the net with header from a Liam Noble centre.

It was all Pools in the opening 45 without really knocking on the door all that much. The second half began in very much the same manner.

The impressive Richardson dug out a cross from the right, when the ball looked dead, Jake Cassidy flicked on and Luke James acrobatically flicked wide.

Then came the blow. Davies, Pools’ main goal threat to this point from set-pieces, hobbled off clutching his ankle and with that blow followed the visitors’ unlikely opener.

On the break, against the run of play, Ebbsfleet stretched Pools on the right and Danny Kedwell’s cutback picked out the galloping figure of Whitely, who tucked into the bottom corner on the volley.

It was undeserved but another body blow to Pools’ defensive unit, who were made to pay twice from the same side on Tuesday night.

McLaughlin did his best to drive the side on - he first saw a header go wide from the penalty spot then saw a smart drive parried away by Nathan Ashmore.

Despite plenty of huff and puff it was all in vain for Pools, as they slipped to their first loss of the season.

Is this a return to the Pools of old? I think not.

This result does bare remarkable resemblance to a number of similar games at the Vic last season. The key difference is that this side look a lot more capable of scoring.

Although, they showed it sparingly on this occasion.

If they tighten things up and maybe tweak a thing about the system, that will will come. We certainly hope so, anyway.

Three without a win and an improvement needed against Braintree in midweek.