MATCH REPORT: Hartlepool Utd’s goalless draw highlights old problem

Telstar 0 V Pools 0. Picture by Pieter Hoogeveen
Telstar 0 V Pools 0. Picture by Pieter Hoogeveen

THE warning signs, even at this juvenile juncture of the campaign, are glaringly obvious.

Colin Cooper is well aware of as much, he must now act to address them.

This team will not score goals, not in League One, not in League Two, not on a pre-season tour against Dutch second-division opposition.

They – the same core of players – have been failed by a succession of former managers.

Strikers have come and gone, some still remain – none have put the ball in the back of the net.

But chances, too, are of equal concern.

Saturday, despite its early-July occurrence and the mitigation of searing heat, cannot be ignored.

Pools, scoreless in the Netherlands 12 months ago, did not act upon similar soundings back then, and look where that ended up.

There have been two managerial changes in that period, each inheriting those familiar failings.

The winter window, with John Hughes at the helm, was inexplicably allowed to pass without attacking addition.

Cooper must seize the summer.

Today, tomorrow and until this team finally presents evidence of a genuinely consistent goal threat, his focus should not shift.

Shape, discipline and organisation are all very well until a point, and that point resides somewhere around the opposition penalty box.

The shortcomings are all-too evident and they have been for some time.

The players themselves know it and, privately, are driven to despair by it, while the new management have learned as much during the course of just 180 minutes in Holland.

This team needs help, aid in the form of a goalscorer, aid in the form of someone to create those goals.

Against Telstar, Pools came close to scoring just twice.

On both occasions it was a centre-back, Sam Collins, who threatened.

First with a diving header which bounced wide and then, in stoppage-time, when another nod was blocked on the goal-line.

Those moments apart, Pools very rarely populated attacking territory and, when they did, both class and composure were sadly lacking.

Shots were lobbed out of the stadium, crosses, too.

It was, in 90 minutes, a snapshot of last season’s woe.

Nil-nil draws.

Nil-nil draws – three of them at Victoria Park towards the end of the season – scuppered those slim hopes of survival.

Even during those matches last term, however, the brilliance of Scott Flinders had preserved parity for longer than perhaps deserved.

This time it was Andy Rafferty’s turn, deputising for the injured No.1.

The 25-year-old has arguably been the biggest positive to emerge from the two matches, evidence that talent lies beneath the impeccable Flinders.

On four occasions did he save his side against Telstar.

The first three, coming within a 15-minute period of home dominance in the second half, were almost identical in their dexterity, each time producing an instinctive glove to flip goal-bound efforts to safety.

Then, to compliment that agility, came bravery, diving to smother at the feet of a likely scorer just six yards from goal.

Allied to that he collected crosses, distributed well and, afterwards, spoke like a young man with a point to prove.

But Rafferty and the goalkeeping department are the least of Cooper’s concerns, as long as Flinders remains at the club, that is.

No, it is 100 yards further forward where his worries exist.

If you don’t score goals you don’t win football matches.

If you don’t win football matches you don’t win promotion – quite the opposite, in fact.

It is a very obvious observation but one which has been laboured for too long, far too long.

Cooper is the latest man charged with correcting this tedious trend.

Over to you, Colin.

Pools: Rafferty, Richards (Austin 74), Collins, Baldwin, Hartley (Holden 74), Walton (Walker 74), Hawkins (Rowbotham 46), Sweeney (Compton 74), Franks (Rodney 46), Monkhouse (Poole 63), James (Rutherford 63).