Liam Kennedy’s Pools analysis: Hartlepool United shambolic, but what’s new?

Blair Adams in action for Pools on Saturday.
Blair Adams in action for Pools on Saturday.

If this was an audition for a Hartlepool United under caretaker Matthew Bates then it’s fair to say the future looks a little bleak.

The mitigating circumstances in this one are that the former Pools and Middlesbrough defender had just one day with his players on the training pitch.

Hopefully this Saturday at Aldershot, Pools will be much more a reflection of their manager, who was at his very best a supremely talented top flight defender. Because at the weekend they were anything but.

He will have watched the first 20 minutes of this one through the cracks in his hands, covering his eyes. It was painful stuff.

Carl Magnay, Louis Laing and Scott Harrison - three of Pools’ supposed back four - looked like they’d never seen each other before Saturday, never mind played with each other.

They were a shambles from the off.

Not one of them, despite their considerable experience, wanted to take responsibility for their actions and when they got anywhere near the ball it was passed on like a hot potato, even if the player they were picking out was flanked by three opposition players, which happened once when Magnay tried to find Nicky Featherstone.

Laing was particularly bad. The conditions - windy and with a low sun - made it hard, but he looked like he’d been picked off a park pitch from a Sunday morning at times. If a ball was there to be misjudged, he misjudged it. A pass to go astray, he was your man. A marker to let run free, Laing did it.

He’s had a tough, tough season. In normal circumstances he’d be taken out the firing line. The facts of life at Victoria Park are stark - he’s almost all they’ve got.

The full-backs aren’t any better.

Adams’ positional sense is so bad he must run more kilometres than any other player on the pitch, chasing wingers back. But, the one who disappoints the most is Magnay. You expect better of him.

At a higher level he’s looked a solid full-back, why all of a sudden does he look like a worse player. It’s clear he’s frustrated, but at the same time he’s the skipper. Pools need more from the likes of him in their time of need.

There is simply no time for passengers, or those who want to hide behind excuses.

The goal was a joke. One full-back was nowhere to be seen when the ball was delivered, the other not within 10 yards of Dean Rance who headed in, totally unchallenged.

The winner came just 17 minutes in. The sad thing about it was it could have been 4-0 before that.

After 45 torrid minutes things couldn’t get any worse for Pools, who seem to lack leaders from one to 11 - although that’s maybe doing a disservice to keeper Scott Loach, who is consistently the only player sent out to face the media in light of defeat. One or two others should take a long, hard look in the mirror.

After the break things were better but in truth a goal never looked likely.

The only real positives to take from the game were the tireless performances of Rhys Oates and Jake Cassidy, and the fact results elsewhere went for Pools, who remain three above the dropzone. The scantest of consolation.