RICHARD MENNEAR’S analysis of Southend 1 Hartlepool United 0

OH DEAR: Brad Walker holds his head in his hands after Southend United score the only goal of the game against Hartlepool United. Picture by FRANK REID
OH DEAR: Brad Walker holds his head in his hands after Southend United score the only goal of the game against Hartlepool United. Picture by FRANK REID

ON Friday night in the team hotel, latest recruit Scott Fenwick stood up and sang his initiation song.

He opted for Oasis’s Britpop classic Wonderwall – a song that features the line: “I said maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me”.

The question Pools fans are asking is just who is going to help save the club from relegation to the Conference?

It is far from terminal but Pools are, without question, staring down the barrel of the gun. Seventeen games in, Pools have just 12 points, a goal difference of minus 16 and the 1-0 reverse to Phil Brown’s Southend was the seventh away defeat already.

A fortnight ago Pools came back from the dead against Newport County to snatch a dramatic point, scoring twice in the final 10 minutes.

That was followed up by the FA Cup win over East Thurrock and hopes were high a corner may finally have been turned.

But defeat to the Shrimpers had an all-too-familiar – and inevitable – feeling to it.

There wasn’t much to separate the two sides but a mistake 60 yards out from goal proved fatal for Pools. Nicky Featherstone was robbed of the ball and Brown’s men took full advantage on the break.

The defence, who had enjoyed a solid enough shift up until that point, was carved open far too easily as David Worrall hit a low effort into the bottom corner.

Before that decisive strike, it seemed the game was there for the taking.

Southend had missed a glut of half-chances while Pools showed, in glimpses on the break, they could snatch a goal. But it wasn’t to be and not even the introduction of new signing and would-be Liam Gallagher Fenwick – before Southend took the lead – could inspire Pools to a result.

The same old problems continue to blight Pools, the same problems that not been addressed all season.

It goes back way before Murray took charge. Pools are lacking quality and depth and further new signings are a must, including another striker.

Three new players were thought to be coming in last week but never materialised, much to the growing frustration of supporters.

As well as attacking players, another keeper is a must too as once again Pools were unable to name a number two on the bench.

All afternoon Pools’ passing and offensive play was poor, lacking in quality, inventiveness and creativity.

It was too predictable and in the end Pools paid the price with yet another defeat – their 11th in total.

Murray made three changes to the victorious FA Cup side.

Back came on-loan pair Charlie Wyke and Scott Harrison, while fellow loanee Matt Crooks made only his second start in central midfield.

Murray opted for a 4-3-3 formation, with Boro striker Wyke supported by Jonathan Franks and Sidney Schmeltz.

There was an early shout for a Southend penalty in the 10th minute, Featherstone with the challenge on Jack Payne on the edge of the area but the appeals were dismissed. The ball broke to Barry Corr and his left-footed shot was saved by Scott Flinders.

Southend, who hadn’t won in four at home, had the better of the possession and the early chances with Flinders’ goal coming under increasing pressure.

David Worrall, Luke Prosser and Kevan Hurst all had headers saved in the opening half-hour in a match lacking in quality.

Pools fought back, Featherstone forcing Daniel Bentley into an excellent low shot in the 36th minute before Jonathan Franks shot inches over from 20 yards.

Franks was the hero last week, scoring twice against Rocks and he started the match against Southend brightly too. On several occasions in the first half he comfortably beat his man, got to the byline but then failed to produce a cross of any quality.

Same old story.

Brown was left frustrated his side weren’t going into the break leading, with makeshift right-back Adam Thompson guilty of missing a sitter from just six-yards out.

The second started in a similar fashion, with Michael Timlin forcing Flinders into a diving save to prevent the 20-yard strike flying into the net.

Despite seventh-placed Southend’s pressure, the game was there for the taking if Pools could only muster a period of pressure.

Murray replaced Crooks and Schmeltz after less than an hour, with Jordan Richards and Fenwick coming on in their place.

The Pools manager was pushing for the win, reverting to 4-4-2.

But within eight minutes of the pair’s arrival Pools were trailing.

Featherstone was dispossessed in the 65th minute and Worrall broke at pace, dancing through the centre of defence before finishing low past Flinders.

Wyke then forced Bentley into a flying save before Brad Walker struck an effort just wide of the post as Pools looked for an instant response.

But it didn’t come.

Southend were denied a late penalty appeal for a foul on Corr as the match fizzled out into another predictable defeat.

Thankfully, Tranmere, Dagenham & Redbridge and York City were also beaten so no ground was lost on the nearest relegation rivals.

But worryingly others above won and the gap between 24th-placed Pools and fifth-bottom Carlisle United is already six points.

That is already looking a frightening distance.

Where are those two wins going to come from?

It is hard to see it, unless Murray is able to bring in further new recruits.

One thing is for sure the pressure has been further cranked up ahead of the visit of York.

Three points is an absolute must.