Liam Kennedy's Hartlepool United analysis: Pools end TWO unwanted recent records as they muscle back in on play-off mix

Michael Woods (left).
Michael Woods (left).

Andrew Davies rose highest in a land of giants to drive Hartlepool United back into the National League play-off mix in style.

The defender, a boyhood Pools fan, scored his first goals in blue and white to ensure Matthew Bates’ men ended two unwanted recent records.

Long overdue, Pools ended their wait for a home win - which stretched back to August - and with that also made sure they recorded their first win by more than one goal this campaign.

Pools have played better, they’ve passed it better, defended better and created more chances this season. But rarely have three points been better received as Davies, Bates & Co edged back into the fifth tier play-off places.

While, at times, results have not always been forthcoming, Bates’ side have received rave reviews for the way they want to play the game.

Their intent, home or away, is to dominate possession, impose themselves on the opposition and overrun teams in midfield. They did none of that on Saturday.

Instead, against a side who had just two players under six foot tall, they won first balls, were agressive with and without the ball and added a clinical edge to their game, not seen this season.

Given the height of the opposition, it was a massive surprise to see Davies score twice from balls into the box. Saying that, though, I’m not sure the player has lost a header since signing on the dotted line in the summer.

An hour before kick off news broke that Matthew Bates would make one change to the Pools side which laboured to a 1-1 home draw with Aldershot a week previous. That change was soon to be reversed though, as Paddy McLaughlin was removed from the XI and Michael Woods reinstated.

As poor as Pools were against the Shots, the expected bounce back failed to materialise as Boreham Wood dominated proceedings early on.

Second best, Pools’ first opening could and should have been a decisive one. A Luke James cross from the right found Mark Kitching in a central position six yards from goal, his connection was perfect, but the legs of Ellery Balcombe prevented the left-back opening his account for the club. From the rebound Noble, on a bit of an off day, scuffed with his left with the goal at his mercy and Muir’s attempts at a deft flick back through the legs did not get enough of a connection to divert the skidding ball goalwards.

That seemed to spark everyone, on the park and in the terraces, into life at a particularly subdued Super 6 Stadium.

And with that increased noise and tempo, Pools grabbed hold of the game against their physical opponents and began to turn the screw.

Kitching was again involved as James turned his cross quite brilliantly at goal at the near post, only for Balcombe to again be equal to it. From resulting corner the opener came, though. A well-worked short corner routine saw Noble chip a cross into the area and Davies rose highest to nod home powerfully for 1-0.

And that was the way it stayed at the break with Pools ending an up and down first 45 on top and in front.

With Boreham Wood seeing more and more of the ball, Pools looked to soak up the pressure and catch the opposition on the break, with James a constant nuisance, playing on the shoulder.

The striker was very unlucky not to register his second of the season when he fashioned an angle for himself in the area, with a near turn of a Boreham Wood defender, but Balcombe got down to parry wide.

As the game wore on referee Gareth Rhodes, the man in the middle on the day, became more and more under the spotlight.

His controversial decisions angered both sets of fans but he bore the wrath of Poolies’ anger with around 20 minutes to go when he first turned down penalty appeals for what appeared to be a clear as day foul on Davies in the area, then when Peter Kioso was man-handled to the ground soon after from another set piece the referee again turned a blind eye.

Pools were not about to let this one slip away, though. In the 82nd minute a Muir cross was perfectly floated into the area for a host of Pools bodies to attack and the most aggressive of the lot in the air Davies made no mistake with his head to make it 2-0 and secure all three points.