Hartlepool United manager Craig Hignett's in-depth analysis of Tuesday night's 2-2 draw against AFC Fylde
Craig Hignett felt his side executed their game plan almost perfectly against AFC Fylde on Tuesday night but was left frustrated after giving up a 2-0 lead late on to draw 2-2.
Two emphatic finishes from Gime Toure put Pools in control as they looked set to make it back-to-back National League wins.
But a late brace from Ryan Croasdale undid the home side’s hard work at Victoria Park and saw the points shared.
Following the game, Hignett’s first words were: “I’m scratching my head with how we haven’t won it!
“They’re a good side and they’ll be up there come the end of the season but we had a game plan and it worked a treat.
“We knew were were going to get chances and we did, we were 2-0 up and I thought we were fairly comfortable in the game, defending alright and limiting them to long range shots.
“We obviously started with a five [at the back] which we haven’t done before but that’s due to the personnel we’ve got.
“I felt we were getting a little bit deeper after switching to a four and I thought it was going to take too much out of the lads particularly Ryan Donaldson at wing-back so we changed it again and did alright.
“I was disappointed we let the two goals in the last few minutes obviously, but I was encouraged by what I saw over the course of the game.”
At 2-0, Hartlepool had chances to put the game to bed with Toure, eyeing his hat-trick, choosing to shoot instead of playing in Luke James. One of a number of good chances to secure victory.
“We had countless chances to put the game to bed,” Hignett added.
“2-0 at [80-minutes] you think we’d just see the game out anyway, but we didn’t.
“Their first goal was a foul and offside and the second was disappointing because their lad has got across us, hasn’t headed it properly and it’s looped up over Ben [Killip]. They are the type of things that are going against us because we’re in games all the time.
“But even at 2-2 we had chances to win the game, we had two great headers from corners which should have been goals and Raynesy [Michael Raynes] had a volley as well.”
Fylde enjoyed plenty of possession as the away side at The Vic but were limited to few clear cut chances until that frantic two minute spell.
But Hignett had been working on sitting deep in training and was happy to let Fylde peg his side back.
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“Fylde asked questions and kept the ball really well because they’re a good team who penned us in,” he admitted.
“We let them pen us in because we knew what we were trying to do and that was our game plan which was spot on.
“We knew they’d give us it and we’d break off the back of that and get chances and that’s exactly what happened time and time again. If we’d taken a little bit more care in the final third and made one or two better decisions then the game is out of sight.
“You can’t leave anything to chance in this league because anything can happen.
“You can get one decision in a second which can put you under pressure and that’s just what happened here.”
Despite having a fairly sizeable squad to choose from, Hignett also pointed to the growing injury issues he’s having to contend with as a factor in the late collapse.
“I think it was just fatigue, I think when you’ve got lads playing with some of the injuries we’ve got, we always knew the last 10-minutes was going to be massive in the game,” he said.
“I knew at some point Aaron [Cunningham] was going to struggle, Gus [Mafuta] was going to struggle even though he ended up playing the full game, I knew Ryan Donaldson was going to struggle and then you’re hoping you don’t get any other injuries elsewhere.
“Subbing [Liam] Noble was nothing, we got 2-0 up and Nobsa is an attacking type of player and I wanted to bring on someone more defensive to help see the game out.
“He’s played all the games and was looking a bit jaded so I wanted to rest one or two but I couldn’t really, I wanted to get us into a position where we were alright in the game and the people I brought on, there wasn’t much between them in the squad.”
Given Fylde’s unbeaten start to the season and reputation as one of the favourites for promotion – most manager’s wouldn’t be judged too harshly for admitting they’d have taken a point before kick-off – but not Hignett.
“I’d never take a draw in this league and with the lads I’ve got, I want to win games and I expect to win games,” he admitted.
“I think with the injuries we’ve had and how we’ve had to reshuffle it, you’re always hoping for the best and a draw was the worst I wanted out of the game.
“I thought the lads were really good, I think everything that we talked about, they did tonight and stuck to it and I think they got encouragement from it because they could see they were making chances from the things we’ve been working on.”