Liam Kennedy’s analysis: Pools limping along to National League safety

Nicky Featherstone battles with Solihull Moors' Jermaine Hylton
Nicky Featherstone battles with Solihull Moors' Jermaine Hylton

Hartlepool United are limping their way to National League safety.

Without any major twists or turns between now and the end of the season - Pools have just four fifth-tier games left - they’ll be in this division again come August.

But it’s been far from pretty, as we all know.

And at the dawn of a new era there’s little cause for optimism by what has been produced on the park in the club’s National League debut season. That despite a revival under Matthew Bates, which is also falling apart at the seams.

On a day where Pools were desperate to toast Raj Singh’s takeover with three points, the were yet again hit with a late sucker punch.

Adi Yussuf scored an 88th minute winner for relegation-threatened Moors, as they climbed out of the National League dropzone.

Pools remain seven points clear of the drop, with Barrow sliding into the bottom four.

On the selection front, Bates made just the one change from the side beaten by Guiseley on Easter Monday.

Rhys Oates was recalled up top, with Devante Rodney dropping to the bench.

Apart from that one change it is as you were for Pools, who are likely to again set up in their 4-1-2-1-2 formation.
Liam Donnelly missed out on a place in the Pools matchday squad, having failed to shake off an ankle and calf problem picked up while on international duty.

Having flattered to deceive against the National League’s basement boys earlier in the week, Pools carried on where they left off in this encounter.

Out-passed, out-thought and out-played in the opening 45, the hosts had Scott Loach to thank for keeping things scoreless at the break.

He made a string of saves, probably the best from match-winner Yussuf, following an error by makeshift right-back Lewis Hawkins.

Just six minutes before half-time Fiacre Kelleher missed a gilt-edged chance to break the deadlock. A dangerous cross from Pools’ right found its way though to Kelleher who turned over the bar from just two yards. It was a real let off for the hosts.

After the break Pools were brighter without really creating anything of note in front of goal, while Moors were a constant threat on the break.

That was until youngster Josh Hawkes, not shy in having a crack, lined an effort up from 30 yards and rattled the Solihull bar with a belter.

Anything Pools can do, so can the Moors. At the other end substitute Omari Sterling-James, just a few minutes after coming on, clipped Scott Loach’s bar with a similarly ambitious effort.

And, much like Monday, after getting within touching distance of another vital point, a cross from the right was turned home by Yussuf to see Pools slip to yet another home loss.

Having worked themselves into a position to secure safety this week, Pools are no closer than they were seven days ago.

And things might get a little bit nervy should Barrow manage to win one or even both of their games in hand, given that Pools take on second-placed Sutton away from home on Saturday.

One more win, three points will do it, but keep playing like the weekend and it’s difficult to see where it’ll come from.