Liam Kennedy’s big-match analysis: Hartlepool United 1 Chester 1

Hartlepool Uniteds Conor Newton just fails to get on the end of a cross.
Hartlepool Uniteds Conor Newton just fails to get on the end of a cross.

Proper centre forwards are few and far between in modern football.

Their physical style, presence and ability to unsettle defenders is often seen as old hat.

Well, there’s one at Victoria Park who has injected life into Hartlepool United’s faltering National League season.

A dominant Pools could only muster a 1-1 home draw with Chester last night, but were it not for the bravery and bottle of Cassidy, this would have been yet another three points dropped.

The summer signing went were many a striker fears to tread, pouncing on a high ball which looped up in the visiting area, rising to beat Chester’s Conor Mitchell.

Many a referree would have chalked it off in this era of over-protecting goalkeepers.

But credit to Glen Hart who did not even take a second look at the firm but fair manner in which Cassidy beat the keeper to the ball for the 71st minute leveller.

While Cassidy’s second goal since his summer switch from Guiseley had an element of fortune to it, it was the least Pools deserved from this encounter.

Take out the opening five minutes, in which Chester striker James Akintunde took advantage of an error by Scott Harrison, and then Scott Loach, to smash home the opener, Craig Harrison’s men were head and shoulders above their opponents.

While Pools have been out-battled, out-thought and out-maneuvered by for chunks of their opening three games at this level, this outing was nothing of the sort.

Chester were not your typical National League side. They were not particularly big, bar their two centre halves, nor were they all that physical. Instead, they seemed intent on coming to the slick Vic to out-pass Pools. Well, it was a flawed plan in many ways, even though they will be very happy to leave with a share of the spoils.

Conor Newton was much more influential than in recent weeks, ghosting into spaces much further up the park, while fellow new boy Ryan Donaldson had some joy down the right in a much more conventional looking 4-4-2.

Of the changes from the Maidenhead draw Nicky Featherstone, in for Lewis Hawkins, was quiet, but Nicky Deverdics, preferred to Liam Donnelly, was nothing of the sort.

The attacking midfielder was deployed on the left with a licence to roam into the middle.

And roam he did heading a 24th minute effort off the bar when he looked nailed on to level.

If Deverdics, clearly unhappy at being subbed in the second half, was close to getting his first goal of the season there, he went even closer soon after.

An inch perfect centre from the excellent Carl Magnay from the right found Deverdics on the edge of the box and the midfielder produced a powerful drive that clattered off the underside of Mitchell’s bar and bounced off the line and out.

It just about summed up Pools day to that point, he, and they, did everything but score.

Magnay himself almost produced the goal of his career on 66, belting a volley from 30 yards off the bar. It was that sweetly struck the keeper and the visiting backline barely had the chance to move.

Having created so many chances it was surely only a matter of time before Pools broke Chester’s resolve.

And they did just that with around 20 to go - Cassidy proving just why Harrison has bent over backwards to sign him twice in his career by netting with an old fashioned nod home, like a No 9 of years gone by.

A poor start, an improved middle and top class end.

If Pools could somehow work out how to play a full 90 minutes at the level required, they might just do well at this level.

They’ve clearly got the talent, the goals and the performance in them, but we are yet to see the ‘real’ Pools from start to finish in any of their first four so far.

Could Bromley be the the place it all falls into place?

Well, a word of caution - trips don’t, in fact, get much tougher on paper, given that the London outfit plastered Leyton Orient 6-1 at Hayes Lane last night.

Anyway, onwards and upwards.