Hartlepool United 1 Accrington Stanley 2: Match analysis, defeat but no disgrace

Nathan Thomas tries to get the better of Matty Pearson. Picture by FRANK REID
Nathan Thomas tries to get the better of Matty Pearson. Picture by FRANK REID

A defeat but no disgrace.

That is the simple five-word in-a-nutshell assessment of Hartlepool United’s first home defeat in seven matches.

It was a big ask for a much-changed home XI to put the brakes on the Accrington bandwagon

A single-goal loss to a club in second place in League Two is no great shock or shame, especially when you think Pools had changed almost half the team.

It was a big ask for a much-changed home XI to put the brakes on the Accrington bandwagon, whose unbeaten run has been extended to nine games thanks to strikes by Seamus Conneely and Tariqe Fosu at the start and end of the first 45 minutes.

Conneely’s sweet third-minute volley would have been worthy of winning any game, while Fosu’s alert finish was a reward for a very lively display.

Accrington were worthy winners on the back of a fine first half when they played some sumptuous football.

However, Pools showed enough in the second half to demonstrate they are now a competitive force in any League Two fixture.

Maybe it would have been a different story had Craig Hignett put out the team which had lost only two of their previous 11 games and had been unbeaten at the Vic in five matches.

But, had he done that then he would not have had the opportunity to look at a number of players who he had not viewed in what he refers to as a proper match.

Hignett opted to make five changes top his starting formation with Jordan Richards, Brad Walker, Josh Laurent, Jake Gray and Rakish Bingham all coming in for Carl Magnay, Nicky Featherstone, Lewis Hawkins, Michael Duckworth and Luke James.

The boss got to check out Walker, who we saw is probably not a holding midfielder, while he enjoyed a first look at Laurent.

A Hawkins or Michael Woods he is probably not, but there was some promise there, possibly enough to give him another run-out in Saturday’s trip to Oxford.

In fairness to Walker, the teenager was not alone in not quite being at the races.

Pools did not really get going in the first half, except the occasions they got the ball to Nathan Thomas, who made things happen.

Hignett was unhappy with his side’s “energy” or lack of it in the opening 45 minutes.

But, sometimes, you have to give due credit to the opposition and, in this case, Accrington were good. Very good in fact.

They had a gifted player in Josh Windass pulling strings behind a top striker in Billy Kee and two fine wide men in Fosu on the left and Piero Mingoia on the right.

And in the middle they had Conneely and former Pools loanee Brad Halliday who had the energy Pools did not have. Stanley had a ton of possession and were not shy in having a crack at goal.

The majority of their attempts at beating Trevor Carson were off-target, but there were two notable exceptions.

Pools had barely seen the ball when they conceded to Conneely. The hosts had not dealt with an early corner and the away skipper connected superbly with a volley from the edge of the box, his shot flying past the despairing dive of Carson to his right.

The only real surprise was that Stanley had to wait 42 minutes before adding their second.Pools could not deal with Accrington’s movement and football and Windass fired a cross-cum-shot into the six-yard box. It struck Carson’s far post and fell nicely for Fosu to hammer the loose ball in.

It gave the yellows a deserved lead after Pools looked like going into the interval with the scores at 1-1.

They had equalised in the 25th minute when Thomas had won a corner which Richards delivered high into the box. Bingham, to the right of the goal, met it strongly with his head, with the shot flying past Ross Etheridge to his right.

After spending much of the first 45 minutes on the back foot, Pools were a much stronger force after the break. That was largely down to the introduction of Featherstone.

Not only did he get on the ball and got his team-mates on it too, little was seen of Windass and, as a consequence Fosu and Mingoia.

The only problem for Pools was that they were unable to capitalise on the possession they got.

Richards hit a free-kick into the away wall, Laurent put a tame shot straight at Etheridge and the midfielder also made a surging run forward, only to produce a heavy last touch in the box and see the ball run out harmlessly for a goal-kick.

It was a typical moment for Pools who showed promise but did not have that final piece of quality.

Matthew Bates had header collected by Etheridge who also gathered up a daisy-cutter from the excellent Adam Jackson who had marauded forward and played a one-two with Bingham.

There were other nearly moments, a Luke James header deflected wide and an over-hit free-kick or two.

Did Pools deserve more? Probably not, but defeat was no disaster.