Phil Smith’s analysis: Hartlepool face long battle if promotion is to be won

Scott Harrison wins a header for Pools on Saturday.
Scott Harrison wins a header for Pools on Saturday.

Over a third of the 773 in attendance at Meadow Park were Hartlepool United through and through.

From the first whistle, they sang an incessant, insistent tune: ‘We’re on our way, we’re on our way, to the football league, we’re on our way...’.

It was another point picked up, another game unbeaten in the league.

The play-offs remain within touching distance and with back-to-back home games on the horizon, as well as the welcome sight of talented Jake Cassidy back making his presence felt across the frontline once more, there is good reason to be optimistic.

This game did show, however, how far there is to travel if that song of a return to the promised land is to be made true.

Hartlepool United were second best for much of this contest, outplayed by a Boreham Wood side that were well organised, powerful at the back and with a dash of genuine flair up front.

How Bruno Andrade did not get himself on the scoresheet will be a source of mystery and despair to himself and his manager Luke Garrard.

The hosts lined up in a 5-3-2 formation and right from the off posed problems, with pace in the wide areas and Andrade’s trickery dragging the defence out of position.

He went close on a couple of occasions in the first half from range, and his fine cross from the byline just evaded centre-froward Dan Holman to grant the visitors a reprieve.

In the second half, the 24-year-old, formerly of QPR, missed three gilt-edged opportunities to seal three points.

The first came just minutes after the restart, as attacking midfielder Blair Turgott picked up the ball and drove across the face of goal. Centre-back Scott Harrison was off balance and clattered his opponent, the referee faced with little choice but to point to the spot.

Andrade’s effort was tame, Loach able to save at a good height as he dove to his left.

Then, Andrade raced through on goal, bustling away from from the Hartlepool defence with a fine show of strength and pace. Loach saved the first effort but the goal was gaping for the rebound. Inexplicably, on his weaker foot, the Portugese forward could only find the side netting.

Before the game was up he had one more golden chance, pinching the ball from the dithering Kenton Richardson by the corner flag. He swiftly broke free but could only blaze high and wide.

He threatened to be the difference throughout, but could not find the killer touch.

Hartlepool did create some promising opportunities, with Rhys Oates, Blair Adams and substitute Cassidy all putting some excellent crosses into the box, just unable to find the target.

That the visitors were only able to force two saves from goalkeeper Grant Smith, however, neither of which were out of the ordinary, reflected their inability to make real inroads.

Boreham Wood’s three man defence were physical and resilient, dominant in the air and rarely dragged out of position.

Hartlepool were simply unable to get their key attacking threats and creative mdifielders on the ball.

As such, it must be seen as a point gained.

A stuttering performance, but no momentum lost.