IT can be a torturous pursuit following Hartlepool United.
They are forever in the midst of one ruinous run or another.
At present, we’re totalling the number of league games without a win – six.
The number of consecutive league games lost on home soil – three.
And, until James Poole’s injury-time consolation, the number of hours without a league goal – nine.
Somehow, though, they punctuated all of that despondency with the 5-0 hammering of Bradford City in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on Tuesday night.
It was a rare high to alleviate what has been a laboriously-long low.
On Saturday, sadly, normal service was resumed, a 25th home defeat in 47 matches, 26 of those ending without home score.
When Pools did bring netted nourishment to their latest goal famine it was regretful that the effort meant “nothing at all” to boss Colin Cooper.
And why should it?
Five-hundred-and-forty minutes of final-third failure culminated by an injury-time consolation is no cause for merriment.
Just what does Cooper have to do, what spell does he have to cast to persuade this set of players to fulfil their professional commitment week in, week out?
Paul Murray, formerly of Pools and a player who never swerved a question, once stated quite bluntly, “That’s why players are in League One and not the Premier League, a lot of them have the ability but they don’t do it on a consistent basis”.
Pools have taken inconsistency to a new plain – never mind “one in two”, it’s “one in eight” based on the evidence of this season.
That is a relegation ratio.
“Adrift of safety” was a clipboard fixture us reporters had hoped was a thing of the past – unfortunately, the hot-key has been restored.
Two points currently separate Pools and the safer terrain of 22nd position.
Bottom club Accrington Stanley are next up on Saturday – a game sure to be billed the proverbial “six-pointer” even with the campaign in its infancy.
Just what Pools side will show? The one which battered Bradford or the one which surrendered to Wycombe?
For we can forget talk of “a good first half” on Saturday, football matches are played over 90 minutes.
Yes, the narrative may have taken a different course had the officials spotted Christian Burgess’ close-range header which appeared to drop a good foot beyond the goal-line before being cleared, but the game was barely 35 minutes old and the scores were still level.
But once Wycombe were smashed in front by the right boot of teenage substitute Max Kretzschmar, arrowing into the bottom corner from 25 yards on 51 minutes, an air of inevitability descended on a previously expectant Victoria Park.
And so the script unfolded as it has done so depressingly often.
No energy. No excitement. No idea.
But then, however, your mind is bolted back to Tuesday night – a five-goal blitz which renewed optimism, public proof of the “right direction” in which Cooper and his players believe they are headed.
Such hope, however, merely amplifies the sense of sorrow when struggle returns, evidenced by Cooper and midfielder Matty Dolan repeatedly using the word “flat” to describe events after half-time.
Kretzschmar dinked a second beyond Scott Flinders on 69 minutes, climaxing a swift breakaway with a deft finish which belied his 19 years.
Earlier, in the minutes before 3.45pm, Pools had used the momentum from their midweek rout to fashion a host of early chances, Andy Monkhouse saw a shot blocked inside the six-yard area, Jon Franks blazed over and Burgess was denied by the error of the officials.
Losing teenage midfielder Brad Walker to a fourth-minute injury had not hindered their early efforts, but the more the match wore on, the more his replacement, Simon Walton, struggled to exert any influence.
Pass the ball he may not, pass the buck he can – one verbal volley to Burgess completely misplaced in the context of his own performance.
No player personifies more the aforementioned inconsistency, wonderful on his day, woeful the six or so in between.
Poole did eventually nod that late reply but it was far too little, far too late.
Chairman Ken Hodcroft had used his programme notes to reveal news of a failed pursuit of a striker on deadline day.
Fulham’s Dino Islamovic is believed to have been the target. He scored twice for the Cottagers’ under-21 side at the weekend, how Pools could have done with those goals.
The loan window reopens tomorrow, let us hope those funds are still available for reinforcement.
For the joy of the Johnstone’s Paint cannot be used to emulsion over the cracks of this side.