Pools analysis: Hartlepool United need better home form to move bandwagon into outside lane

Jonathan Franks fires home Pools' second goal at Torquay.
Jonathan Franks fires home Pools' second goal at Torquay.

Call it a hunch, but do you get the feeling that Hartlepool United are going to take some halting?

Pools produced the goods, yet again, on the road and how the fans enjoyed their marathon outing to Torquay.

Unlike the previous two games, there was to be no allowing their rival off the ropes


Perhaps not the first 45 minutes at Plainmoor when Pools were almost clueless, but in the second half they were more Dr Jekyll than Mr Hyde and they emerged with their fourth away win of the season.

That is now 15 points from a possible 27 on the road and 14 from the last six games, which is an incredible ratio.

Only two clubs have taken more points on their travels than Pools, Macclesfield and Dover (both 18). The one thing which may hold Pools back or, more pertinently, currently is doing just that, is the points return at Victoria Park.

Pools are down in 18th in the home table and that is where the improvement needs to be made if Craig Harrison’s team are to get their bandwagon into the outside lane.

There is a wait before they need to sharpen up their home form.

Pools are on the road again for the next two Saturdays, visiting Morecambe in the FA Cup this weekend, when a win (or draw) is vital, before travelling to Boreham Wood seven days later, for the resumption of the National League.

After that, there are back-to-back home fixtures with Aldershot and Halifax when Pools must make a statement of intent with six points from six.

Pools made something of a statement on Saturday at Plainmoor – that they refuse to buckle, no matter how bad things may appear, taking us back to the top of this story that this team might take some stopping.

Having been pegged back to 1-1 draws last week by both Sutton and Tranmere, surrendering winning positions, a victory at Torquay was crucial.

But Pools slipped into their bad old ways against a rejuvenated Gulls side who belied their status in the bottom four.

Torquay, buoyed by a midweek victory at Ebbsfleet, tore into a Pools side who barely got a kick in the first 40 minutes, or not a good one.

Scott Loach came to his side’s rescue, once again, saving at his near post from Ruairi Keating and low to his left from Josh McQuiod.

Keating squandered a free header while his strike partner, Jamie Reid, was causing all sorts of problems putting over one peach of a cross which Louis Laing superbly cleared under great pressure while another, a low ball across the six-yard box, just needed a touch to put it in the back of Loach’s net, but no-one was there to apply the finishing touch.

It took Pools 24 minutes to visit the Torquay box, shortly after Blair Adams started and finished a fine move wit a right-foot shot which Vincent Dorel held comfortably.

Harrison had gone with what appeared to be a bright, attacking side, the selection of Adams allowing Nicky Deverdics to be pushed further forward into midfield, while he selected Luke George for his first start.

But Pools struggled to play, with passes either being too heavy or too short, and players with considerable ability simply could not function. There was even a foul throw.

Torquay could, and perhaps should, have been a few goals to the good.

But fair play to Harrison, he is not afraid to make a change.

The manager altered his back four half-an-hour in, reunited Laing and Liam Donnelly at central defence with Michael Ledger, having had a difficult time of it, moving to right-back, where he looked more comfortable.

There was a brief moment of angst when an unmarked Reid had a sight at goal eight minutes before half-time, but his aim was not true.

Harrison changed his approach at the start of the second half, tightening his team up and imploring them onto the front foot.

A positive start saw Adams gallop forward and cross for Deverdics. The header was a mile wide, but it showed just what they could do.

And Adams repeated the trick in the 54th minute to devastating effect. George and Nicky Featherstone combined superbly in the middle of the park to release the full-back. His cross from the left was inch-perfect with Oates powering home his header at the near post from inside the six-yard box.

Simple but very, very effective.

Pools had the bit between their teeth and, unlike the previous two games, there was to be no allowing their rival off the ropes.

Franks, like Loach, has proven his class, just when his team need it most. And on 68 minutes he came up with the goods. With the Gulls defence standing off him he took aim from outside the area. His right-foot shot hit Josh Gowling and the deviation took it into the home net.

At 2-0 the game was almost up. There was a 73rd-minute scare when Reid’s near-post drive brought another super save from Loach.

But Pools were in control. Laing was dominant, along with Donnelly, and when they were not there to clear, Oates and Deverdics made vital headers.

Oates had a rea spring in his step in the final third, as had Michael Woods, while George and Featherstone had established themselves in the middle of the park.

Pools, perhaps, should have added to the tally but it would be churlish to criticise given how they had turned the match around.

There was time for a late scare in stoppage time when Loach saved magnificently from substitute Damon Lathrope and sub Scot Harrison made a tremendous block in the resulting melee.

But that summed up Pools, they refuse to fold.