Hartlepool United analysis: Kerr loss key as Pools' attack continues to go from strength to strength - but cracks open up at the back
You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.
A well worn phrase that rings true in every walk of life, time and time again.
It’s a feeling Hartlepool United and Craig Hignett no doubt had on the long, arduous drive back to the north east on Saturday night.
Fraser Kerr was in the starting line up at 2pm. But by 2.55pm, when the players were led out by skipper Ryan Donaldson, he was notable by his absence.
At 3.02pm his removal from the matchday 16 due to illness was felt even more when a simple corner routine, straight off the Eastleigh training ground, ended up in the back of Scott Loach’s net. The same could be said at 3.16pm - another corner, another goal - and again at 4.02pm - same thing, corner, defender’s switching off, 3-1, an uphill struggle from there.
Kerr is a player who has transformed Hartlepool’s defence - and the weird thing is, you might not have even noticed it.
Since his arrival from Gateshead, rumoured to be for a knock-down fee of £4,000, Kerr has not won man of the match, he’s not put in any goal-saving challenges, there’s been no goals.
But what he does do is defend, keep it simple, talk. There’s nothing flash about the Scottish central defender but he wins it, blocks it and heads it. He’s also decent on the ball, which for a defender at this level is a real feather in the cap.
You might not notice him when he’s in the team, but Poolies definitely noticed him when he was out of it.
A sickness bug has been circling around the Peterlee training base this week and while most who got it midweek managed to overcome it, Kerr developed it late - and ultimately his absence probably meant they surrendered a deserved share of the spoils at the Silverlake Stadium.
Pools were excellent in so many ways on the south coast. They created enough chances in the first 45 alone to win three National League games, never mind one.
Critics will say they need to be more clinical in front of goal - Luke Molyneux and Nicke Kabamba certainly should have netted more than the one they managed between them - but that’s a harsh assesment.
Pools didn’t look like they’d cut open a side from the Sunday leagues earlier in the season, now they’re creating chances galore and scoring goals, too.
The transformation under Hignett has been stark. This team has goals in it, and it’s only a matter of time before another fifth tier side is taken to the cleaners by this young, entertaining, bright, vibrant and supremely skilled Hartlepool frontline.
The problem has switched from front to back, though. And while Kerr has been a massive plus and David Edgar looks the part, something is not quite right.
Individually on Saturday it was hard to point out any one of the back four, or those in front, for a bad performance or an individual error. But collectively, as a unit, they weren’t at it at the weekend.
Hignett’s got it right at one end, it’s now time for him to devote yet more time and effort into getting it right at the other.