Hartlepool Utd’s Austin presents the case for the defence

Neil Austin in action against Exeter City. Picture by FRANK REID
Neil Austin in action against Exeter City. Picture by FRANK REID

HARTLEPOOL United’s offensive players have captured the headlines with a rush of goals.

And quite right too.

Pools are scoring for fun – seven goals inside eight days – and some beauties in among them.

However, a look behind the headlines and you will see the scintillating play has been built on another S-word: solidity.

Pools have leaked only one goal in the last three games and it is a grand total of 293 minutes since they conceded in open play.

Since Deane Smalley was afforded both time and space to slip the ball past Scott Flinders midway through the second half of the 3-1 defeat to Oxford United, Pools have been a different animal.

In fact, the only two blemishes for Pools have been penalties.

Defending is, of course, not just about the rearguard, but the unit at the back are proud of their contribution.

Neil Austin has not only been Pools skipper during the absence of Antony Sweeney, he has been one of the key men in the defence.

And he says teamwork allied to individual skill has been behind the transformation.

“As a defender, your first thought is keeping them out,” he told SportMail. “And if you get a clean sheet you take a lot of pride in that.

“But it takes a lot of work and organisation with the people around you and in front of you.

“We have video analysis here so we’re always looking back on things.

“I think most of the goals we have conceded have been mistakes but hopefully we’ve cut them out and we’re making progress.”

They certainly are.

“There’s a buzz in the dressing room, on the training pitch, and around the whole place,” said the 30-year-old.

“We’re a tight-knit group and that helps and we are now lot more confident than we were.

“We had a magnificent result at Mansfield and I know Sheffield United aren’t doing so great but they are still a big team and club.

“We then went and beat the team which started the day third for the second Saturday running.”

All three of those results have come outside Hartlepool.

And while the travelling blue and white army have cheered the side to the rafters, their number have been in their hundreds rather than thousands.

Austin added: “It’s nice putting in performances away from home.

“The away support is absolutely fantastic and it always has been here,” he said.

“But it’s only 200-300 people.

“If we could convert those away results into home 
wins as well that would be fabulous.

“We did beat Accrington Stanley but then our next game [against Oxford] was probably our worst of the season.

“It’s a good chance to get a good result aginst Plymouth and then take that into Tuesday night against Wimbledon.”