Pools analysis: St Johnston 1 Hartlepool United 0, another step forward

Padraig Amond battles to win the ball at St Johnstone. 'Picture by Graeme Hart/ Perthshire Picture Agency
Padraig Amond battles to win the ball at St Johnstone. 'Picture by Graeme Hart/ Perthshire Picture Agency

Hartlepool United are just two Saturdays from the afternoon Poolies have feared for years – the start of the National League season.

But Pools look equipped to be able to take those horrible first steps outside the EFL, despite going down to their third straight pre-season defeat.

Newton provided one of the positives though it has to be said that no-one really had an off-day


After years of steady and painful decline, there is a real positive atmosphere at Victoria Park and under Craig Harrison there is quiet confidence.

While a 1-0 defeat at St Johnstone hardly ranks alongside a 6-0 spanking of Manchester United three decades ago, it represents another step in the right direction under Harrison.

Pools competed for the full 90 minutes with the Saints and while home keeper Alan Manuss hardly strained his back, there was much to admire about the side in all grey.

And while you can’t read too much into friendly results it was interesting that all the Scottish press at McDiarmid Park spoke favourably about Pools after the game in the aftermath of St Johnstone’s caning of Sunderland seven days earlier at the same stadium.

Harrison and his coaching staff will be a wee bit miffed with the Saints winner, conceded early on to Steven MacLean. Yes, it is that Steven MacLean who scored that penalty in the 2005 play-off final.

However, the Pools back five performed well against the lively home attack and Scott Loach, Carl Magnay, Scott Harrison, Louis Laing and Blair Adams look bedded in for Dover Athletic on Saturday, August 5.

Michael Woods again played with great energy and would appear a good bet for a spot in the centre of midfield while Conor Newton appears to have found his feet and got through three quarters of the game.

Newton provided one of the day’s positives though it has to be said that no-one really had an off-day.

Jake Cassidy shook off his hamstring niggle to get 45 minutes under his belt while Nicky Deverdics got his first 90 of pre-season.

Padraig Amond, again, worked tirelessly and with every day that passes provides a good sign that Pools are not going to sell their goal machine.

The great thing about the Irishman is that unrelenting graft is done for the team, not just himself.

A couple of times in the second half he was the man trying to do the setting up rather than the finishing.

Amond, ideally, would be the man you would want on the end of the ball in the opposition box, not playing the passes into the danger area.

It is one of the things Pools will need to iron out and with playing with just the one central striker, they need to get efficient support to that man as quickly as possible.

However, while Pools did not have a hat full of chances you have to remember they were up against a top four SPL side – they are unlikely to come up against better players than this come August.

Pools did see quite a bit of the ball and against lesser opposition you would have to have the belief that opportunities WILL come.

Nicky Featherstone, while still finding his way back to fitness following his summer hernia op, gave a reminder of just what an effective figure he is in the middle of the park, while Lewis Hawkins, who came on for the last 20 minutes, has the bit between his teeth.

Harrison got to look at a quartet of trialists – keeper Matt Gould, defenders Kosovar Sadike and James Risborough and winger Junior Mondal.

All four did OK, though nothing startling, and Harrison will probably take a further look in training this week and against either Middlesbrough on Friday evening or Whitley Bay on Saturday.

After an uneventful start, Saints took the lead with their first meaningful attack in the 12th minute. A nice one-touch move down their left, got triallist Romaine Habran into space and his deflected cross was nodded in from a few yards by MacLean.

Pools had their first shot on 33 minutes when Woods was well wide from outside the box after good work by Newton.

Having won their first corner in the 35th minute, Saints had a run of flag kicks. The organisation/ communication looks like it could do with a look at, but it was a rare minus point for the visitors.

Three minutes before the break, MacLean tried his luck outside the area with Loach beating away a shot with swerve on it.

Pools did get their second shot of the match in 10 minutes into the second half but Adams’ effort with his rarely-used right foot was easy for the goalie to collect.

Manuss, one of Trevor Carson’s rivals st Northern Ireland, was barely tested until the 64th minute when Pools won a free-kick just outside the area.

Having scored from a near-identical location at Harrogate, it was Deverdics territory and this time he aimed it in the opposite corner, Manuss going to his left to claw it out.

Amond got away 12 minutes from time when he seized on a loose Saints throw-in on half-way, only to screw his shot miles wide

There were other moments of semi promise with Featherstone, Amond and Hawkins involved but Pools could not find a way through.

Gould made a good save during a spot of pinball in the away area but there was no further scoring, MacLean’s goal settling a well-fought friendly.

St Johnstone: Mannus, Foster, Anderson, Gordon, Tanser (Easton 46), Wotherspoon (Craig 46), Paton, Davidson, Scougall, Habran (Alston 59), MacLean (Kane 46)

Goal: MacLean 12

Pools: Loach (Gould 60) Magnay (Richardson 71), Harrison, Laing (Sadike 60), Blair (Risborough 71), Donaldson (Hawkins 71), Newton (Travers 71), Woods (Featherstone 64), Deverdics, Munns (Mondal 60), Cassidy (Amond 46). Unused sub: Cattterick

Referee: Euan Anderson.

Attendance: 1,157 (away 54)