Liam Kennedy's analysis: Far from a vintage Hartlepool display but point could yet prove vital

Luke James battles for the ball against Barrow.
Luke James battles for the ball against Barrow.

Hartlepool United occupy their highest position in the National League table - sixth - having jumped a spot in the fifth tier standings.

But this was a night of ifs and buts for Pools as they failed to make their superiority and dominance count on a night where gatecrashing the top spots had been the aim.

Things could have been much worse, of course, had Jack Hindle not missed from 12 yards late on. It would have been a smash and grab for Barrow, who were second best in almost every department from minute one to 90.

The problem? Pools just could not break through the visitors two banks of four on what proved to be a frustrating evening in front of goal.

One point sees them crawl up to a fifth tier highest spot, but hopes were high it would be a little better than that this morning.

A win could have seen them go top at the start of proceedings, in the end it would have been good enough to see them nestle into fourth, just a point off the top.

Matthew Bates watches on.

Matthew Bates watches on.

Given the struggles of last season, I'm sure Poolies will accept sixth and three off the summit, with hopes high that this team, full of spirit, character and most importantly quality, can far surpass the achievements of 2016/17 and give Pools a fighting chance of a return back to where they belong.

As for the game itself, as they have all season, Pools had the lion's share of possession, but Barrow were stoic in defence, given Pools little to no option in the final third.

The visitors did have the first, and probably best, chance of the half when a cross from the right was turned high and wide by Tyler Smith after just three minutes with the goal at his mercy.

That, though, was about it from Cumbrians in the opening 45 as Pools grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck.

Ryan Donaldson in action against Barrow.

Ryan Donaldson in action against Barrow.

For all their dominance and ball, Pools could not unlock the door, though, despite some scintillating, passing stuff at times.

Ryan Donaldson went close after a jinking run, beating two men before skewing a shot wide, but apart from that it was a frustrating half of football for the hosts in front of goal.

The second half began like the first ended - resembling a defence v attack drill on the training ground.

But this time Pools were not quite as fluent and the opposition a little more of a threat on the break.

Luke James covered every blade of grass in the final third, with little reward in terms of chances but he did manage to fashion one for himself just before the hour. The run of the ever-willing Mark Kitching down the left opened up a yard or two in the middle and James unleashed one from distance, but with Andrew Firth rooted to the spot the ball sailed inches wide of his post at the Town End.

Strike partner Niko Muir turned over a chance from 18 yards after some tremendous work by Donaldson on the right before Pools survived a scare at the other end.

Carl Magnay's clumsy tackle in the area on Hindle was pulled up by referee Declan Bourne and a spot-kick was awarded.

Were Pools set to throw yet more points away late on? Not this time. Hindle picked himself up, dusted himself off but rattled his penalty off the bar. As you were.

And there was to be no twist in the tale for either side as Barrow finished with a flourish and Pools with a bit of a damp squib.

All told another point for Pools and another game unbeaten. Not a vintage show, not their worst either. On another, more favourable night, they'd have won this one, but without the crossbar coming to their aide it could have been loss number two.

A fair result and not a bad point in the grand scheme of things on a tough night against well-organised opponents.

Come the end of the season results like this will prove vital.

And if Pools' start to the season is anything to go by, they'll be right in the mix come the business end of the National League campaign. Well, here's to hoping anyway.