RICHARD MENNEAR’S MATCH ANALYSIS: Desperate Hartlepool flop at Accrington

BRAVE BUNCH: Hartlepool fans last night
BRAVE BUNCH: Hartlepool fans last night

THESE are desperate times indeed at Hartlepool United.

Defeat to Accrington Stanley saw Pools once again drop into the relegation zone in Sky Bet League Two.

And there is no sign of things improving anytime soon.

Pools are without a manager and are in desperate, desperate need of new players.

Caretaker boss Sam Collins has given it his all in these past couple of weeks but the players aren’t good enough.

Collins was fuming afterwards, rightly saying too many players had not done their jobs.

He also questioned their mental strength and whether they are up for the challenge of getting Pools out of this mess.

Harsh but fair.

The match itself was played in front of less than 1,000 fans.

The facilities at Accrington are basic, to say the least, but the worrying reality is this could become the norm next season if Pools do drop out of the Football League.

It is still only October but the weeks - and matches - are flying by and this team is lacking leaders, quality and characters willing to put their body where it hurts.

Collins opted against making any changes for the match at the Storefirst Stadium - something that will almost certainly change for the weekend.

The caretaker boss saying afterwards he could make 11 changes and they’d be no complaints.

New loan signing, Matt Crooks, signed from Huddersfield Town on a month-long loan deal, started the game on the bench.

It was a scrappy start on a bitterly cold night in Lancashire in front of a sparse crowd.

But the game soon came to life in the 7th minute with the marauding Michael Duckworth going close with a 20-yard fizzing shot going just wide of the right-hand post.

The right-back burst inside and beat three men before getting his shot away - some Pools fans behind the goal had even started celebrating it was so close.

Pools certainly had the better of the opening 10 minutes but it was the home side that took the lead.

John Coleman’s side went one up in the 19th minute, Shay McCartan given too much time and space to waltz his way through the centre of the Pools defence.

He then curled a lovely right-footed effort from inside the area past Flinders to give Stanley the lead.

Before the match, Collins had said his side were going to have to play ugly if they were to get anything from the match.

They did anything but.

The goal had visibily lifted Stanley’s confidence and they went on to control play in the first-half, putting the Pools defence under increasing pressure.

Collins, again prowling the touchline, was urging his side to get back into the game.

They almost did in the 30th minute, Wyke and Michael Woods combining well before the latter’s well-struck shot was tipped over the bar.

It was a lovely move but Woods didn’t keep his shot low and Jesse Joronen got his hand to it.

Pools kept at it and got their rewards in the 42nd minute.

Matthew Bates jumping highest to flick the ball past Jesse Joronen from a Ryan Brobbel free-kick from the left wing.

It seemed like Pools were going to go into the break level but the home side had other ideas.

With just a minute left to play, John O’Sullivan whipped in a corner and Rob Atkinson jumped highest to head the ball home.

The simplest of goals and highly frustrating for Collins & Co.

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

You couldn’t hear the dressing room due to the tannoy but Collins was tearing strips off his side.

It was no surprise they were out early to ‘warm up’ after gifting the lead away and Collins had made a sub, with Crooks making his debut in place of the ill Wyke.

Crooks is a big unit and used his strength and height to win several headers, he also had two decent chances to score but didn’t connect well with either.

Collins soon made his second sub, unhappy Brobbel hooked in place of Jonathan Franks who partnered Crooks up front.

Connor Smith then entered the fray, replacing Hawkins.

A bold move by the caretaker boss to make all his subs early but he was desperate for his side to get back into the match.

There was plenty of huff and puff but both sides were struggling to create clear-cut chances.

Them with twelve minutes left to play, McCartan scored his second of the match to put Stanley 3-1 up.

A scruffy goal to concede, with McCartan free to poke the ball home from close range past Flinders in front of the visiting fans.

It capped another poor night for Pools and with little on the horizon to cheer supporters.

Pools need a new manager through the door quickly.

Collins has conducted himself very well during his caretaker spell in charge but Pools are second bottom of the Football League.

This is no time for a novice, an experienced head is needed to guide Pools out of trouble plus an influx of new players.

Before it is too late.

Accrington (4-5-1): Joronen, Joyce (C), Aldred, Winnard, McCartan (Hatfield, 80), Gray (Carver, 74), O’Sullivan, Maguire (Barry, 63), Molyneux, Procter, Atkinson. Subs Not Used: Bowerman, Mingoia, Windass, Simpson. Goals: McCartan (19, 78)), Atkinson (45). Booking: Aldred, Carver.

Pools (4-3-3): Flinders (C), Duckworth, Austin, Harrison, Jones, Miller, Bates, Woods, Brobbel (Franks, 57), Hawkins (Smith, 64), Wyke (Crooks, 45). Subs Not Used: Woodman, Richards, Green, Walker. Goal: Bates (42). Booking: Harrison

Referee: Andrew Madley (Wakefield) Attendance 947 (Pools 109)