Hartlepool United analysis: Craig Hignett injects the joy back into Pools on and off the park

Nicke Kabamba has been a revelation at Pools, scoring five in five games.
Nicke Kabamba has been a revelation at Pools, scoring five in five games.

Football is a sport to be enjoyed, whether that be by those playing or watching it.

Watching Hartlepool United for the last few years, as a club, on the whole, has been anything but enjoyable.

It's been the club where hope and success went to die.

For every step forward, they took two, or sometimes three, back in the opposite direction.

Recently, though, that narrative has changed.

It's once again a pleasure to watch Pools, and the players out on the park seem to be enjoying it, too.

It's maybe a little too simplistic to say this, but I'm going to say it anyway - the catalyst to change has been Craig Hignett.

He's breathed life into a dressing room seemingly on life support, again, under Richard Money.

He's brought a style, an attacking intent, and ability to entertain, missing for so long.

And that was evident yet again at Ebbsfleet last night.

Pools might not have won, but they claimed a vital point and kept their second clean sheet in row.

It shows just how far they have come in such a short space of time that the players went home unhappy with just a share of the spoils.

Gone are the silly errors, pressure seems to be a thing of the past.

Four unbeaten has Pools 11 points off those in the top seven. Probably too far, yes. But this group look like they're going to have a right good go, reinvigorated by a manager with a point to prove.

On the selection front manager Craig Hignett named an unchanged side, following Pools' remarkable, surprise 4-0 win at Boreham Wood at the weekend.

The Fleet had Pools on the rack in the opening exchanges as a last ditch tackle from Aaron Cunningham prevented an opener before Michael Cheek skewed an effort past Scott Loach's far post when put clean through by striker partner Cody McDonald, who succumbed to injury soon after.

A constant thorn in the Ebbsfleet side was Luke James, snapping at ankles, as ever, and pressure defenders into errors.

He carved out an opportunity of his own when he hassled to win the ball out on the wing before skipping past two men and firing at goal. The striker's effort, though, was wide.
Nicke Kabamba, fresh from his two-goal show at Meadow Park on Saturday, had little joy with direct balls up to him in the opening 45, but he showed his aerial prowess from a Liam Noble corner, stooping low to somehow divert a cross goalwards, but the effort skided just wide.

And with that miss, the half ended goalless, with Pools probably happier with their performance than the hosts, who were frustrated in the main by some resolute Hartlepool defending. The only chink in the armour was Danny Amos' defensive vulnerability, which Fleet attempted to exploit at every opportunity with balls over the top.

Into the second 45, Jack Payne came within inches of making it 1-0 after a positive opening for the home side. His free-kick looked in from the minute he stroked it over the Pools wall from 30 yards with Scott Loach unmoved, but it missed the target.

Despite the hosts' dominance of possession after the break, Pools did not lose their ambition, with Kabamba and James continuing to prove a nuisance.

And it was the on-loan Havant man who produced the biggest moment in front of goal at either end with just 10 minutes remaining.

A searching free-kick from half way was won by Myles Anderson, and the ball dropped to Kabamba, who curled left-footed at goal. From the minute he hit it looked destined for the top corner only for Nathan Ashmore to tip over acrobatically. Not bad for a big lad.

With five minutes remaining the game really opened up at both ends but it was Pools who looked the most likely to win it - James was played in by Noble but saw a goal-bound effort clipped wide by a home defender.

And that was the way it ended - Pools securing their first point against Ebbsfleet in their four games against the side in the National League.

With 12 games to go Pools look they will need at least eight or nine wins from their season swansong. It's not impossible to logic would suggest it's a bridge too far.

What this group can do is make sure they relight a fire in the terraces, and keep the fanbase engaged ready for a charge next year.

Pools, for the first time in a long while, really feels like it is moving in the right direction on the field, as well as off it.