Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words.
We’ve heard squad members left, right and centre at Hartlepool United, as well as the manager, talk about the need to defend properly, work hard, stick together.
It’s empty rhetoric. This kind of stuff only washes with fans if the signs of change are obvious on the park, no matter the result.
The facts speak for themselves. No wins, four defeats. Just three goals this season, just two from open play. Performances have noticeably plateaued, too. Footballing ideals, supposedly sacred from the off, have been binned – it’s fair to say Pools fans have seen nothing of the slick passing hinted at in pre-season.
Pools are going backwards and at a rapid rate.
Yet again Craig Harrison’s men were humbled by a side most Pools fans won’t have even heard of not so long back. Yes, it sadly has got to that stage.
Just when you think things can’t get any worse at Victoria Park, they do.
And don’t for one second think things have bottomed out. They can get a whole lot more negative yet, but a lot of that depends on the resolve within the Pools dressing-room and dugout.
With Guiseley the opponents this afternoon, will Saturday be seen as a line in the sand? Well, we’ve heard that quote rolled out in recent weeks. Or will Pools just dish up more of the same? It has to be the latter, otherwise questions will start to be asked of the hierarchy with the club nestled right at the back end of the National League table. We all knew this league wouldn’t be easy, but I don’t think for one second anyone could have predicted it would be this hard.
Having watched over his side’s embarrassing second 45 at Bromley last week, Harrison again rolled the dice.
Out went the 4-3-3 and it was in with yet another experimental formation, this time 4-1-4-1. In a season full of system switches, this was even a new one on Pools’ diehards this campaign.
There were changes in personnel, too, with new boy Keith Watson, signed on loan from St Johnstone in the week, thrown in from the off at centre-half, Jack Munns brought into central midfield and Jonathan Franks handed the first start of his second spell at Pools.
The changes did little to produce much hope. While it was a quiet, even opening, watching it, you still got the sense it was a matter of time before Pools, yet again, shot themselves in the foot.
This time, unusually, it took them until the 39th minute to do just that.
Scott Harrison tied himself in knots out on the Pools right-hand side allowing a cross to come in and Henry Jones to guide home.
The goal came as absolutely no shock to those present – the visitors, with their sharper movement in the final third, and busier gameplan, were worth their lead.
Pools, again, were chasing the game.
We’ve seen Pools produce Jeykll and Hyde performances at this level week-in, week-out. Everyone was expecting Doctor Henry Jeykll to run out the tunnel after the break but it was an even more toothless Mr Edward Hyde that emerged, much to the dwindled Victoria Park crowd’s dismay.
As shot-shy and poor as Pools were in the first 45, they were noticeably worse in the second.
If they’d still been playing now I’m not even sure they’d be off the mark in the clash.
With Pools failing to produce the goods, Fylde stuck another knife in the back. Step forward Danny Rowe. And if the opener had laid bare Pools defensive failings, the second one just made them look daft.
A cleverly worked free-kick was rolled back to Rowe on the edge of the area and with a goalscoring prowess that saw him net more than 50 goals last season he stroked home, giving Scott Loach, skipper for the day, absolutely no chance.
In fact, has there been a game this season where Loach has been busy? His only act seems to be to pick the ball out the net, or to show his appreciation to the fans even in defeat, where many Pools players fear to tread.
Loach is one of the few plus points from the day, which saw Franks run around a lot with no end product, Nicky Featherstone, Conor Newton and Munns fail to make any meaningful impact on the encounter, Blair Adams get turned inside out and Jake Cassidy absolutely isolated.
Debutant Watson did not put a foot wrong, it’s a shame Harrison alongside him did not oblige accordingly.
If this game could be summed up by one statistic, it is that Pools did not have one shot on target in the whole of the 90 minutes.
That is nowhere near good enough.
There are a whole host of people at Hartlepool United who need to take a long, hard look at themselves and ask whether they’re up for this fight. If not, Pools need to find players who are.