Hartlepool United 0 Ebbsfleet United 1: Solitary strike enough to see off error-ridden, confidence-drained Pools

Jake Cassidy
Jake Cassidy

Hartlepool United were made to pay for an abject opening 45, as Ebbsfleet left Victoria Park with all three points.

Pools were like chalk and cheese in this encounter, but despite a spirited second half, in which they more than matched the visitors, Matthew Bates' men left empty handed due to Dean Rance's 17th minute winner.

On the selection front there was little new man Bates could do to change things up after the midweek surrender at Halifax.

Restricted to just 13 senior professionals, he opted to bring Luke George back, with the unlucky Conor Newton dropping to the bench.

That change did little to improve performance with Pools looking second best from the very first whistle.

Striker Corey Whitely was the first to be gifted an opportunity. A lapse in concentration less than 60 seconds into the encounter allowed him a run and strike at goal, but luckily for Pools his effort cracked off the foot of Scott Loach's post.

That luck ran out on 17 minutes when Dean Rance opened the scoring. A chipped ball from the right found the midfielder in acres on the left and he made no mistake with his head.

It could, and should, have been 2-0 moments later when Whitely was set free with a straight-forward ball right through the heart of Pools backline but inexplicably he curled wide when the goal was at his mercy.

The amount of chances Ebbsfleet created Pools would have thought themselves very lucky to be just a goal behind.

An utterly shambolic first 45 was epitomised by Louis Laing. Everything that could have gone wrong for the centre half did. He missed every high ball, mistimed every challenge and failed to track runners at will.

To be fair, though, it's not like he was helped by experienced pros Carl Magnay and Nicky Featherstone around him - the skipper particularly poor and keen to pass the buck.

Pools seemed to get a rocket up their backsides after the half-time hiatus. Energy seemed to course back, they looked like creating chances all of sudden - Jake Cassidy, one of the only players to come out of the opening half with any semblance of credit, saw a goal-bound effort cleared after a penalty box scramble.

They couldn't could they?

Well, the simple answer to that was no.

While Pools matched their opponents after the break, were much more of a threat and less of a bombscare at the back, they never really looked like breaking the door down.

And much like Tuesday night at the Shay, their lack of quality and options in the final third left them wanting in their time of need.

Another week, another defeat. It's an all too familiar script.