RICHARD MENNEAR’S ANALYSIS – Resurgent Hartlepool United beat Plymouth Argyle 3-2

Hartlepool v Plymouth Argyle
Hartlepool v Plymouth Argyle

HARTLEPOOL United have re-discovered that winning feeling.

Victory over Plymouth secured back-to-back victories on home soil for the first time since March 2014.

And finally the squad is beginning to take advantage of the win bonus Colin Cooper fought hard to introduce in the summer.

Cooper, of course, is no longer at the club, instead it is Ronnie Moore who has instilled a new lease of life and confidence in the players.

Performances have upped considerably and they are now reaping the rewards.

Jonathan Franks’ brace and Scott Fenwick’s fourth in six starts secured only the fifth league win of a desperate campaign.

The visitors, managed by Moore’s close friend John Sheridan, rallied late on but Pools had already done the damage.

Relegation rivals Tranmere Rovers, Carlisle United and Dagenham & Redbridge also won but the gap was, at least, reduced by two points down to seven.

In reality, with the goal difference, it is eight but still a psychological boost and added momentum ahead of a busy run of fixtures.

Pools again impressed on Saturday and didn’t look like a team struggling for survival, far from it.

Since Moore took charge, Scott Harrison and Dan Jones’ partnership at the back continues to flourish while the new 4-3-3 formation - with Matthew Bates in the holding midfield role - is proving a lucrative one with four points from six.

Having Bates in there, gives Reading loanee Aaron Tshibola and Michael Woods the freedom to bomb forward and support the front three.

It is Moore’s little tweaks that has given fans hope of survival, when all looked doomed at Christmas.

The last four matches have resulted in two wins, a draw and a defeat – certainly not the form of a team rooted to the bottom of the Football League.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for matters off the pitch.

While Moore looks to have got his house in order, the ongoing ownership issue rumbles on and is proving a major, unwanted distraction.

Peter Harris, of TMH 2014, is still named as chairman in the match day programme but again wasn’t at the game and more tellingly there were no programme notes from either him or chief executive Russ Green.

Highly unusual but perhaps not surprising given the lack of communication in recent weeks.

Fans pay good money to watch Pools and deserve to know who is actually running the club and what the latest is with the proposed ‘takeover’ - hopefully there will be some answers in the coming days.

There is a genuine chance this side could stay up, with the addition of a couple more quality players, making the distractions off the pitch all the more frustrating.

Back to matters on it and the presence of striker Scott Fenwick on the team sheet cannot be underestimated.

The 24-year-old was a major doubt so Moore was delighted to be able to call on him.

And he didn’t let him down.

Jonathan Franks may have scored twice but it was the former Dunston star that caught the eye.

His work ethic is relentless, fearless in his play and he is not one to care too much about the opposition’s reputation.

Fenwick’s strike – the winning goal – was typical of his ruthless finishing and he has adapted well to the new-look formation, playing in a wider role on the left flank.

He arguably gives more to the team than Jack Compton does from that position and he got his rewards against Argyle. The striker is a rare success story of Paul Murray’s eight-week stint as manager.

He was named in an unchanged Pools starting line-up at bitterly cold and windswept Victoria Park.

Lewis Alessandra saw his deflected effort dip just over the crossbar in the second minute before Pools took a deserved lead eight minutes in.

They looked bright and energetic in the early stages and Franks popped up from close range to fire home Tshibola’s perfect cross.

Fenwick almost doubled the lead but his flicked attempt at the near post was blocked by Argyle stopper Luke McCormick.

The pace settled and neither side carved out any further clear opportunities until Argyle equalised 30 minutes in.

Dangerman Reuben Reid flicked the ball on to Ryan Brunt, who had too much time and space on the edge of the area to pick his spot from 18-yards.

The Town End thought Fenwick had put Pools back in front shortly after, he was at full stretch to connect to an excellent Franks cross but McCormick saved on the line to deny him.

His appeals the ball had crossed fell on deaf ears.

It was all square at half-time but it wasn’t long before Pools took the lead.

Tom Flanagan - who should have been red carded later on for two bad fouls - conceded a sloppy throw-in, Woods cut inside before playing the ball to Franks who finished well in the 54th minute.

Bates then had a header cleared off the line as the home side pushed for a third.

It came in the 76th minute through Fenwick.

Duckworth broke forward before rolling the ball across for the Gateshead-born star to pick his spot.

Bingham, having done the hard work, should have made it four but blazed over.

Argyle then enjoyed a period of pressure with Reid’s attempt deflected wide before Jones fouled Kelvin Mellor inside the area in the 90th minute.

Incredibly, the penalty wasn’t given.

Argyle continued to press and sub Olly Lee headed home in injury time, with Flinders struggling to move after a hefty blow from Reid in the first-half. I

t was a dramatic end but Pools held firm.