Match analysis: Hartlepool United fight off past demons to triumph in battle of Brisbane Road

Rhys Oates celebrates his winning goal at Leyton Orient.
Rhys Oates celebrates his winning goal at Leyton Orient.

Football is very much a game of habits.

When your team is losing week after week, it is almost impossible to break the cycle.

Winning runs to a similar formula.

And Hartlepool United, at this moment in time, know exactly what that feels like.

Five games ago they couldn’t buy a bit of luck, never mind a win, but fast forward 450 minutes and 13 points, and things couldn’t be more different.

A well-deserved win at Leyton Orient is the latest in a growing line of National League scalps for Craig Harrison & Co, who have won of their last handful of fifth-tier encounters.

This, unlike a couple that have gone before, was far from straight-forward, though.

From the off, Pools had to battle for every inch at Brisbane Road, as well as making sure they fought off a few demons of their not-too-distant past.

Defensive frailties came back to the fore early on as Jobi McAnuff slotted home the opener. But a quickfire Pools double from Jonathan Franks and Rhys Oates proved to be the difference.

On the selection front, Harrison made just one change, bringing in Ryan Donaldson for Devante Rodney.

After a positive start in which Oates almost opened the scoring with a block, Pools allowed the home side to wrestle control of the encounter with David Mooney finding space in front of the visiting back four.

And it was Mooney’s shot which opened the door for the opening goal. The impressive Scott Loach palmed away the powerful strike but McAnuff was on hand to guide home from 25 yards.

Being cut open at will, top-scorer Macauley Bonne was next to get his chance to strike, hammering an effort off the foot of Loach’s post after yet more hesitant defending from Harrison’s men. As poor as Pools had been defensively in the opening 45, the home side were only a goal ahead.

And unexpectedly, on the verge of the break, Hartlepool conjured a leveller.

A set-piece was recycled by Keith Watson, finding Franks in the area who expertly guided home on the volley. Few could argue at half-time that Pools deserved it, but they weren’t complaining.

Things got even better just a minute into the second period when an expert Nicky Deverdics free-kick was headed home from seven yards by Oates.

Brimming with confidence, it was almost 3-1 soon after when Donaldson, finding acres on the right, hammered off the post with the help of a slight deflection.

After the break the game really began to catch fire, with gaps at both ends of the park. From looking down and out, Orient fought back. McAnuff tested Loach with a searching cross, then Josh Koroma went close and Jamie Sendles-White passed up the chance to shoot from six yards, preferring to loop back across goal when it looked easier to score.

But as the game wore on Pools proceeded to take the sting out of the encounter, as Orient ran out of ideas.

And despite Steve Davis trying every trick in the book in the closing minutes, Pools hung on for the win, although Bonne had the chance to equalise on 90, but his header went inches wide at the back post with Loach beaten.

It was a real chalk and cheese show from Pools, in a game that ebbed and flowed and was entertaining in the absorbing sense rather than being described as all-action or end-to-end.

While showing frailty at the back early on Pools showed a distinct maturity after the break.

They never really looked like shooting themselves in the foot, which has happened all too often not just this season, but last.

Long may it continue. Things are very definitely looking up rather than down for Pools.