Match analysis: Anyone can beat everyone at this level, but Hartlepool United just need to beat someone

Hartlepool Uniteds Blair Adams blocks an effort from Bromleys Josh Rees. All photos by Howard Roe/
Hartlepool Uniteds Blair Adams blocks an effort from Bromleys Josh Rees. All photos by Howard Roe/

Before a ball was kicked this season, Hartlepool United looked like the picture of serenity.

A new owner at the top, new board running things, fresh, young manager with a whole host of innovative ideas and a playing squad which was arguably stronger than the one assembled for Pools tilt at League Two last season.

With all the positivity around the place it was remarkable to think the club were only relegated from the Football League for the first time in their history in May.

Everything pointed towards success. All roads seemingly led to a speedy return to the fourth tier.

But five games in the National League has many a Poolie re-evaluating their pre-season predictions.

That positive vibe has been replaced with anxiety. The squad, all of sudden, looks like it could be cut from the same cloth as last season’s. Relegation, which had faded into distant memory, is all the more vivid again. Even doubts about the manager and general direction of the club have started to be aired on the terraces - although, I am certain this last one is a touch far fetched.

It is amazing what five games and no wins can do for the mood around a place.

Having not won all season, all of sudden Craig Harrison’s honeymoon period is over.

Pressure now rest on every game. That first win, although almost certainly around the corner, weighs heavy on many people’s shoulders.

The manager and his players’ cause has not been helped from within, of course.

The actions of Padraig Amond, refusing to travel and play for the team at the weekend, point towards a squad filled with unrest.

That definitely is not the case. Strangely, despite their poor opening, the squad remain stronger than ever.

They have more characters - the likes of Scott Loach et al - ready to stand up and be counted. Carl Magnay is a skipper of the highest order, a player willing to put his neck on the line, stand up to critics and face the anger of the fans front on, much like he did at the end at Hayes Lane on Saturday.

Gone are the days of Pools players going hiding - hence why Amond, despite his pedigree, simply has no place at all at the Vic.

So, why are things not working at Pools?

With a better squad, manager, team harmony, more character and a clear direction from the top, surely Pools should be better than this?

Put simply, the weekend show, yet again, posed more questions than answers for Pools.

After all has been said and done, it’s impossible to put a finger on just why things aren’t working out.

Is the goalkeeper struggling? No, he’s arguably as good, if not better, than Trevor Carson.

Is there, yet again, nothing up front? No, Jake Cassidy has been a revelation.

Do Pools lack options in midfield or defence? No, they’ve just about got two players for every position.

But, time and time again Harrison’s men are coming up short when it really matters, on Saturday, at 3pm.

And from one half to the next, never mind Harrison’s new found reputation as the National League’s answer to Claudio ‘Tinkerman’ Ranieri, you never know which Pools will turn up.

Saturday was no different. For one half of football, despite the 36th minute goal from Lilywhites man Josh Rees, Hartlepool were streets ahead of the opposition, much like they were v Chester on the Tuesday previous.

But, as is becoming a common theme, lapses in defensive concentration are costing them goals, points and hopes of promotion back where they belong.

After the break, it was the typical Jeykll and Hyde stuff. After half-time Pools barely kicked a ball in anger, bar a Blair Adams effort and another from Conor Newton, who had his best game in blue and white to date.

The inevitable second goal came just shy of the hour mark, and with that the contest was over as a spectacle - well, for Pools fans anyway.

A catalogue of defensive mishaps allowed the ball to pop up for Luke Wanadio and the wideman made no mistake, cracking a 25 yard effort in for the winner.

Wanadio almost rubbed salt in Pools’ wounds, but found the post instead of the bottom corner, and but for Loach this game could have been a whole lot more ugly.

It’s difficult to pick out any positives after a second-half show like that.

What can’t be forgotten is the fact that we’re only five games in. There is a hell of a lot of football to be played between now and the end of the National League season.
This is the type of league where anyone can beat everyone.

For Pools, they just need to work out how to beat someone.