Hartlepool 0 Bristol Rovers 3: Roy Kelly’s match analysis

Pools take on Bristol Rovers last night
Pools take on Bristol Rovers last night

Three steps forward and three steps back.

That is the verdict of Hartlepool United’s journey from Saturday to Tuesday in seven words.

Bristol’s strikers, Matty Taylor and Jermain Easter, who never played like that for Pools, were a nuisance.

Pools were not great on Saturday, yet ground out a 2-1 win at Yeovil Town.

Last night, they were out-thought and out-played by a a Bristol Rovers side, who had lost four of their previous five games.

Pools boss Ronnie Moore described it as a “shambles” and you could not disagree.

Darrell Clarke, afforded warm applause from the Victoria Park faithful before and after he game, was in no way flattered by the result.

Granted, the final two Pirates goals were gifted to them on a plate, but the visitors were worthy winners.

The Pools fans, who have watched with patience and supported with enthusiasm, were unhappy.

Chairman Gary Coxall, watching from the Town End, will not have been one of the supporters who booed at the full-time whistle.

“A lot of criticism tonight - totally deserved” tweeted Mr C. He shared the frustration and, doubtless, he will have a natter or two with Moore over what they can do about it.

The Pools boss would like a player – or two – and the scope is there given there are only two players currently on loan at the club, Andrew Boyce and Brad Halliday.

Pools have creativity and pace to return to the side in Michael Woods and Rakish Bingham, who missed last night’s game through suspension and injury.

But, otherwise, Moore’s options are limited in the squad. Last night’s bench, Carl Magnay aside, is young and inexperienced.

Kudus Oyenuga may come good in time, he certainly has had a good footballing upbringing, but his displays over the last couple of games suggests he is not yet ready to make an impact in League Two.

Pools need players who will make an impact.

You would struggle to come up with one who made any real impression last night.

Scott Harrison worked manfully at the back and Matthew Bates was probably the pick elsewhere until he ran out of gas.

Other than that, it was pretty poor.

The stars on the park were those in all yellow, especially the wide midfielders, Billy Bodin and Jake Gosling.

Bristol’s strikers, Matty Taylor and Jermain Easter, who never played like that for Pools, were also a nuisance.

Rovers were sharper, busier and better. Much better.

Pools were lethargic and offered precious little going forward, a terrible indictment considering they were the home side.

This reporter would love to offer the mitigation that Pools might have been a bit leggy following a long away trip at the weekend. But Rovers travelled up on the day yet looked as fresh as daisies and as bright as buttons.

Rovers were on the front foot from the off, dictating play thanks to their midfield quartet, Lee Mansell impressive in the middle.

Pools were lucky to escape in the 16th minute when Adam Bartlett failed to hold on to a Gosling free-kick while there were several vital blocks and clearances required to keep out the dangerous Pirates.

The home side did threaten in the 19th minute when Matthew Bates, Billy Paynter and Rhys Oates combined but keeper Lee Nicholls came out well to claim the ball.

Nicholls had to tip over a Brad Walker free-kick in the 27th minute but Rovers were the better team.

An away goal looked inevitable and it came 12 minutes from the interval. Bartlett saved from Easter’s but the ball rebounded kindly for Taylor who scored at the second attempt from inside the six-yard box.

It was almost 2-0 two minutes later when Taylor rounded Bartlett in the box but his left-foot shot came back off the keeper’s left post.

Pools came forward in the final minute of the half and when Mark McChrystal hacked down Nicky Featherstone on the edge of the box. Billy Paynter’s free-kick hit the wall and went out for a corner.

Pools, who had gone to 4-4-2, showed an improvement at the start of the second half, with Fenwick going wide with his right foot after a smart turn and shot while Bates was off-target with his left from outside the box.

They were at least on the front foot for the first time.

And Pools had a gilt-edge chance to level in the 63rd minute when Rhys Oates crossed from left only for Fenwick to head wide from 10 yards. It was to prove costly a pivotal moment as Pools went two behind a minute later.

Boyce could not deal with a regulation long ball from McChrystal. Bodin’s touch was exquisite and his finish at the Rink End equally good but he should never have got the ball.

Moore had brought on Oyenuga and Carl Magnay, who started brightly, but Pools could not get anywhere near a goal, though Oates did have a shot blocked by Tom Lockyer.

But it all went horribly wrong, again, 12 minutes from time. Oyenuga played an aimless ball back to no-one in particular and Easter collected and beat Bartlett with glee.

Fenwick had a decent chance seven minutes from time from an Oates chest down but he shot wide of Nicholls’ right-hand post.

It was a tame end to a timid Pools performance. Luton are up next and there can be no repeat of last night.

While two glaring errors have proven costly, it can’t paper over the cracks.