RICHARD MENNEAR’S MATCH ANALYSIS: Bad end to year to forget for Hartlepool

Bradley Walker in action for Hartlepool United against Morcambe. PICTURE BY FRANK REID
Bradley Walker in action for Hartlepool United against Morcambe. PICTURE BY FRANK REID

2014 has been a year to forget for Hartlepool United and defeat to Morecambe just topped it off.

There was actually a glimmer of hope going into the game that maybe Pools could get themselves out of trouble this year after an unbeaten start under Ronnie Moore.

A point at home to Oxford and away to Mansfield showed that there may be a bit of character in the squad after all.

They fooled everyone. Too many lack the fight, character and heart needed.

Moore was scathing with his “gutless” players after the match saying he agreed with those raging Pools fans who were shouting they were not fit to wear the shirt.

Morecambe were no great shakes, they played three big centre halves at the back and a couple of clever players in midfield and Pools couldn’t cope.

The defence again sat too deep inviting pressure, offensively Pools failed to break Jim Bentley’s side down and created far too few clear chances to score.

The build-up play was too slow and predictable and when they were attacking the players – those that wanted the ball – seemed unwilling to have a shot at goal.

This squad needs 10 new additions, never mind the four or five Moore is hoping to secure when the January transfer window opens later this week.

But you have to ask the question, who would actually want to come?

The club is eight points adrift at the bottom of the Football League with a goal difference of -26. That effectively makes it nine points.

Moore said when he got the job he didn’t have a magic wand and has dawned on him – if it hadn’t already – exactly the task facing him.

If he manages to keep Pools up he will deserve a statue because with this group of players they are heading out of the league. No doubt about it.

The season has now reached the half-way stage yet Pools have just 14 points and three league wins to their name.

Where are the 37 points needed to secure safety going to come from in the coming months?

New players and stronger, tougher characters will help. But the task facing Moore and the players is a monumental one.

The defeat and the manner of the loss just epitomised the type of performances fans have been watching week in, week out over the past 12 months.

It was desperate.

The team has been on the slide for months now and the fresh optimism that came with the new owners TMH 2014 and Moore coming in quickly evaporated with yesterday’s ‘performance’.

The problems are deep-rooted and won’t be solved overnight.

Going into the game Moore was forced into making two changes to the side that picked up a point in the Boxing Day draw at Mansfield Town.

In came Brad Walker for the suspended Michael Woods, serving a one-match ban, while Scott Fenwick was in for Harewood after the club decided against appealing his straight red.

On a bitterly cold day at The Vic, Pools started slowly and invited pressure from the visitors – the Shrimps forcing the first attempt on goal in the 10th minute.

Morecambe’s Paul Mullin picked the ball up 30-yards from goal before executing a well-controlled shot which Scott Flinders palmed into the air.

Michael Duckworth, again playing right wing, tried his best to push Pools forward with some probing runs but few clear-cut chances were being created.

Fenwick’s header forced Scott Davies into a save at his near post following a Matthew Bates deep cross as good as it got.

What was clear was how much Pools were missing Harewood’s physicality up front.

He divides opinion but in recent weeks he has at least been working hard and working the defenders hard. Joe Ironside and Fenwick struggled to do that as they worked off scraps up front.

Morecambe – who had Ryan Williams dictating play – took the lead in the 22nd minute.

Referee Darren Drysdale played an advantage in the centre circle, the ball fell to Jack Redshaw on the edge of the penalty area who curled home a fantastic strike from 20-yards.

Pools didn’t force Davies into another stop until the 38th minute, Walker’s 20-yard free-kick comfortably tipped over before Franks’ rash shot was high and wide after doing the hard work to create the chance.

It was another poor showing from Pools, whose movement off the ball was non-existent and the build-up play too slow when they had the ball in attacking areas.

Moore had clearly given them another of his rockets at the break as they did, initially at least, show more attacking intent in the early stages of the second half.

But they still failed to test Davies in goal.

Neil Austin dragged a poor shot well wide while Duckworth nodded wide under pressure at the back post following a deep Franks cross.

Duckworth was hooked a little over an hour, the right-back playing his second game in three days after a month out with a groin injury.

Sidney Schmeltz came on tasked with inspiring a comeback and he showed promise early on but faded against a Morecambe side that looked dangerous on the break.

Ryan Williams almost doubled the visitor’s lead in the 71st minute, his whipped free-kick had to be punched over the crossbar by an alert Flinders.

The game was over in the 81st minute though.

Morecambe caught Pools on the break, Redshaw combined with sub Kevin Ellison before tucking home the second past a despairing Flinders.

They had advanced without a challenge being made and frustrations on the terraces were being heard loud and clear.

A desperate end to a desperate year for Pools.

Sadly 2015 looks set to be even worse with fans bracing themselves for more afternoons like this one.

Hope is fading.