Pools second-string suffer heavy defeat in season opener against Chesterfield

Hartlepool United reserves in action against Chesterfield Reserves at Bedford Terrace. Picture by FRANK REID
Hartlepool United reserves in action against Chesterfield Reserves at Bedford Terrace. Picture by FRANK REID

HARTLEPOOL United’s second-string emulated their senior comrades with a shambolic display in their season opener.

Neale Cooper’s first-team were beaten 5-0 at Crewe Alexandra in their curtain-raiser earlier this month.

The Scot, in the absence of Micky Barron, was back in the dugout yesterday for the start of the reserve-team campaign.

But again Cooper would have been left bewildered by the defensive shortcomings of another Pools side.

Primarily, the boss was there to cast his eye over teenage trialist Femi Orenuga, the former Everton winger.

But Cooper would have left Bedford Terrace with growing concerns over the depth of his squad.

The 48-year-old has twice torn into his players this term, and that after just three games.

So to witness such a lacklustre performance from those supposed to be knocking on his first-team door would have sounded alarm.

As for the trialist, Orenuga showed flashes of the potential which persuaded Everton to pay Southend United £30,000 for his services three years ago.

Indeed, during the opening 20 minutes he waltzed by opponents at will, only to produce nothing at the end of his promising forays.

At the other end, Pools were nervously protecting parity and a visiting goal appeared inevitable.

Darren Holden had already hacked from the goal-line and Craig Westcarr missed a sitter from close range by the time that goal arrived on 42 minutes.

Greg Rutherford had just headed against the bar for Pools when The Spireites mounted another attack, from which forward Scott Boden cushioned on his chest before engineering room for a 20-yard curler which nestled into Adam McHugh’s bottom corner.

Nathan Luscombe moved into the centre of midfield after half-time and at least attempted to impose himself on the game, fizzing one 35-yard free-kick just inches wide.

But seconds later Chesterfield’s Mark Randall did succeed from range when he dispatched a stunning volley beyond substitute keeper Dominic Scott.

From then on Mark Crossley’s side laid siege to Scott’s goal as Pools struggled to fashion any openings of their own.

Twice Scott saved from livewire Boden while Luscombe cleared Jacob Hazel’s net-bound effort from the six-yard box.

But on 62 minutes Hazel had his goal, swapping passes with Boden before directing a volley beneath Scott.

With 15 minutes left on the clock the wideman doubled his tally, taking full advantage of his freedom inside the penalty area to fire home another volley.

There were late chances for consolation for Orenuga and Luke James, but both were thwarted by netminder Richard O’Donnell.

James had been unable to exert his ability on the game throughout, and the 17-year-old continues to strive for his form of last season.

But the same can be said of all the young pros who managed to win senior contracts last term.

It is their task to prove to Cooper they are worthy of a crack on the senior stage.

On this evidence, there is work to be done.

Pools: McHugh (Scott 46), Richards, Johnson, Rowbotham, Holden, Orenuga, Wright (Wignall 46), Hawkins, Luscombe, James, Rutherford (Hedley 73).

Subs not used: Brown, Jones.

Chesterfield: O’Donnell, Darikwa, Waddle, Broadhead, Whitaker, Randall, Wafula, Clay, Westcarr, Boden, Hazel.

Subs not used: Clarke, Slack, Hewitt, Sculls, Mason.