Hartlepool United analysis: Winning is all that matters

Hartlepool United's Devante Rodney.
Hartlepool United's Devante Rodney.

Winning is a beautiful thing and Hartlepool United are beginning to get it down to a T.

And long may that continue because they need to do a lot more of it if they are to triumph this season.

What’s the old adage about success breeding success?

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Pools have won seven times already and are just five behind their total for the entire 2016-17 campaign. The most recent must be classed as ‘up there’ with the successes at Guiseley, Orient and Solihull Moors.

Forget that South Shields are the Evo Stik North leaders, they are a league or three below their true standard – you will see the Mariners in National League North in a couple of seasons.

This must be classed as a good result, no question about it. Pools saw off a side which had won 51 of their previous 53 matches. Before Saturday, Shields had lost just one match since bonfire night 2016.

As this reporter mentioned in SportMail last week, this tie was one Pools just had to win, no matter how they achieved it.

In terms of attainment you would give Pools an eight – this was a good result at fortress Mariners Park – but in terms of performance you might award a six. Pools need to grow that figure in the weeks and months to come.

They could have been out of the competition at half-time were it not for a combination of Scott Loach, the woodwork and below-par finishing.

Yes, Pools came back nicely in the second half with two smashing finishes by Devante Rodney and Nicky Deverdics, though the display in the first priod cannot be papered over.

In the FA Cup, all knockout competitions in fact, winning is not everything, it is the only thing.

But Pools will need to up their game, they will not get away with it every week.

Boss Craig Harrison knows that the National League is THE priority but Pools need to keep the momentum going in the FA Cup too and a run to Wembley in the FA Trophy would be nice.

What’s the old adage about success breeding success?

That has certainly worked for South Shields, who more than played their part in a cracker of a fourth qualifying round tie at the weekend.

Not that you would have thought it by watching the early stages at Mariners Park.

You got the impression Harrison had sent out his in-for side with the message ‘boss the game, show ‘em who the National side are’.

Pools were on the front foot, bright down either flank through Rodney on the right and Jonathan Franks and Deverdics down the left, with Nicky Featherstone and Michael Woods ‘at it’ in the central parts of the midfield diamond.

But they failed to turn pressure into goals, Franks could not get on the end of a great Rodney cross, Jack Munns saw a goalbound shot blocked and Rodney put a super chance over the bar after Louis Laing had got hios head to a Munns corner.

South Shields had a couple of sighters from long-distance which required Loach to watch go harmlessly wide.

But the tie soon changed in complexion. Jon Shaw floated a free-kick into the box which Carl Finnigan controlled on his chest. He turned, and aided by a Scott Harrion slip, shot low with his left foot past Loach.

It was against the run of play, as Craig Harrison pointed out afterwards, but how the run of play would change direction.

Finnigan set up Matty Pattison, one of the tie’s outstanding performers, who seemingly had the goal at his mercy, only for Loach to come out to make a tremendous stop.

The excellent Finnigan then had a gilt-edged chance only to shoot over the bar from a central position.

In the last minute of the half, Pattison was allowed to come in off his left foot and get it onto his right and his superb shot beat Loach only for the crossbar to come to Pools rescue. The late onslaught was not over and Pools were relieved to see Gavin Cogdon pull his left-foot shot wide of Loach’s left stick.

Things had to change for Pools – and they did. You knew Pools meant business when the most reluctant of shooters was having a crack at goal, Featherstone going swide soon after the break.

Harrison paired Rodney and Rhys Oates up top and, like the previous Saturday, the change paid dividends in the 53rd minute. Franks got Pools going forward and when Shields got in a bit of a muddle at the back, the ball fell to Rodney who calmly rolled his shot into Jack Norton’s bottom left-corner.

And precision finishing made it 2-1 five minutes later.

Oates was chopped down, giving Pools a free-kick 25 yards out and in a central position. It was tailor-made for Deverdics and his left foot and neither let Pools down, hammering his strike past Norton’s despairing dive to his right.

Loach was required to make one further great save, thwarting Finnigan from Cogdon’s clever ball.

But other than that Pools had control with Laing and Scott Harrison doing some sterling work, which limited Shields to long-range efforts.

There were home screams for a penalty when Laing stood strong as Finnigan went down, but this week there was to be no late dramas. Pools had won and that was all that mattered.