MICHAEL Duckworth says Hartlepool United need to cut-out performances like the opening 45 minutes if they are to escape relegation this season.
The 22-year-old was back in the Pools side after a month out with a groin strain and he admits the first-half against Mansfield Town was “nowhere near good enough”.
Pools – after a half-time rocket from Ronnie Moore – battled back to secure a valuable point thanks to Duckworth’s third goal of the season.
But the versatile Yorkshireman, who played right wing, believes they could have taken all three points if they hadn’t started so poorly.
“The first-half was nowhere near good enough,” Duckworth told SportMail.
“The second was a lot different and we came out a different team.
“We can’t afford to be playing how we did in the first-half though otherwise we will be in big trouble this season.
“We know that and the manager was very clear about that.
“Then within 10 seconds of the re-start we had a shot and got the crowd behind us and kicked on from there.
“We started putting in some tackles which we haven’t done all season – we have been too nice.
“The gaffer said we need to be nastier and that side of our game needs to improve.
“I thought the back four defended really well all second half, Dan Jones, in particular won a lot of his headers.”
Pools went behind in the 10th minute to a Junior Brown strike before Duckworth popped up with a 51st minute equaliser.
Marlon Harewood laid the ball off to him and he bounced the ball in to send the travelling Pools fans wild.
He added: “It was great to get on the scoresheet.
“Maz chested it down, I hit it into the ground and their guy turned his back and it hit him and went in.”
Next up for Pools is the visit of Morecambe to Victoria Park tomorrow afternoon with Moore facing a reshuffle after the red cards dished out to Harewood and Michael Woods.
Duckworth said it is up to the other players to prove they are worth a go in the team.
The Pools camp were back in training at Maiden Castle, in Durham, today.
Duckworth added: “We have lost two players for Morecambe now and will have to re-group.
“There are two places up for grabs and people need to work hard and show they should be playing.
“I think both Marlon and Michael saw red and in situations like that we need to keep our cool.
“If we had kept the players on the pitch then maybe we’d have had a chance of creating further opportunities to win the match.
“We’ll have to watch both [red cards] back though.”
It was certainly an eventful afternoon for Duckworth who was involved when Matt Rhead thought he’d given Adam Murray’s side the lead shortly after Pools equalised.
It looked like the ball had crossed the line before it was cleared but referee Scott Mathieson didn’t give it.
“The ball hit my studs then hit the post, rolled along the line and I think Daz [Darren Holden] cleared it off the line,” said Duckworth.
“I couldn’t tell you if it was in or not - we need that bit of luck though!
“We haven’t had any this year and we need things to start turning for us.”
– RICHARD MENNEAR