Richard Mennear’s match analysis: Hartlepool United on the brink after Bury defeat

Scott Harrison gets in a shot for Pools at Bury
Scott Harrison gets in a shot for Pools at Bury

“WE’RE Hartlepool United, we never say die.”

The 300-strong Pools following was in fine voice throughout at Gigg Lane on Saturday, urging their struggling side on.

Not once did they turn on the players, encouraging them to the last minute.

But hope is fading quickly that this current squad can get out of trouble.

Relegation to the Conference is staring them in the face and, with just 14 matches left to play in Sky Bet League Two, it is quickly becoming an impossible ask.

While you cannot write Ronnie Moore’s side off until it is mathematically impossible, the stats are bleak.

Pools are eight points from safety with a goal difference of -30 and just 24 points from 32 matches.

To stay up, teams usually need 50-52 points so, with less than a third of the season to go, Pools need to more than double their points tally.

It isn’t just promotion form they need, it is championship-winning form.

Yet they have only won twice away from home and haven’t kept a clean sheet on their travels in almost a year.

And, with just 24 league goals scored, the side cannot rely on the strikers available.

The only striker with the ability to score regularly is out for up to six weeks.

Scott Fenwick was in the stands in his ‘moon boot’ but he could only look on as Marvin Morgan missed a glorious chance in the opening few minutes to give Pools the lead.

Fenwick would have buried it.

That was the only real opportunity created by Moore’s side and they were made to pay.

Morgan gave the ball away with woeful ease, which allowed Bury to break and score the winner through Andrew Tutte.

It seemed one goal would be enough to win it and so it proved as Pools fell to their 20th league defeat of a sorry campaign.

Very little has gone right this season, on and off the pitch and for Moore to be left with just Marlon Harewood and Morgan as his recognised strikers for the next month at least, is very worrying.

Reinforcements are needed urgently.

Harewood didn’t even make the starting line-up against Bury, Moore instead opted to give 18-year-old Connor Smith his full debut.

While Smith worked hard all afternoon, he is not the answer to the team’s goalscoring problems.

We keep harking back to it but Luke James has never been properly replaced and the responsibility for that must lie with the club’s owners and then manager Colin Cooper.

Paul Murray was only in the job eight weeks and, to be fair, unearthed Fenwick, while Moore has had to cope with the collapsed takeover and trying to attract players to a team languishing at the bottom.

The season has been a shambles from the start.

Scott Flinders was the visitors’ man of the match against promotion-chasing Bury, but, while he was the star man, that doesn’t mean Pools were brushed aside by their hosts.

For large periods there was little between them, with Pools battling hard.

What was frustrating was that Nick Pope in the home goal looked uneasy throughout the first half yet he was rarely tested.

The only real save he made came after three minutes.

And he should have been picking the ball out of the back of his net.

Played in by Michael Woods, Morgan’s low attempt from close range was blocked by Pope before the striker snatched at the follow-up.

Either side of the keeper and Pools would have been ahead.

Less than two minutes later and Flinders was called on to make his first save of a busy afternoon, diving low to his left to palm Nathan Cameron’s powerful header away.

Bury had a clear tactic from set pieces, to aim for the head of Cameron and, in the main, the Pools backline coped well as the early sunshine gave way to rain and then heavy sleet.

David Flitcroft’s Bury caused further problems, with Danny Mayor seeing his low attempt saved following a mazy dribble.

Ex-Pools loanee Danny Nardiello was kept out by Flinders before the busy stopper produced a wonderful double save on the half-hour mark, spreading himself to deny Nicky Adams before punching clear the rebound.

Yet up the other end Pope was clearly struggling in the wet conditions – slicing balls for corners and throw ins – but Pools failed to properly test him.

Centre back Scott Harrison’s drive from distance forced Pope into getting his gloves dirty but it was a comfortable save, while Smith appeared to be blocked off in the area as he followed the ball in.

Referee Christopher Sarginson wasn’t interested though and waved play on.

Bury should have had a penalty in the 54th minute, Harrison clipped Danny Rose as he burst into the area.

But Sarginson deemed it a dive and booked Rose. A let-off for Pools.

Tutte then chanced his arm from distance, but Flinders was equal to his curling shot towards the top right-hand corner.

The breakthrough finally came in the 75th minute and it was that man Tutte that scored.

Morgan lost the ball on the half-way line far too easily, allowing Mayor to break forward at pace.

He breezed past three defenders before seeing his shot saved by Flinders, but Aaron Tshibola couldn’t get his feet right to clear and Tutte nipped in.

Game over.

While there is still hope, the players and manager will continue to put on a brave face and look to prove their doubters wrong.

But that hope is fading fast.

As the weeks race by, relegation to non-league football looms ever nearer.

Bury (4-4-2): Pope, Riley, Tutte, El-Abd, Cameron (C), Etuhu, Adams (Jones, 59) Rose (Hope, 69), Mayor, Hussey, Nardiello (Sedgwick, 80). Subs not used: McNulty, O’Brien, Lainton, Dudley. Scorer: Tutte (75). Booking: Rose (54)

Pools (4-4-2): Flinders (C), Duckworth, Harrison, Mirfin, Austin, Franks (J Jones, 80), Compton, Woods, Tshibola (Walker, 80), Smith, Morgan (Harewood, 80). Subs not used: Maxted, Richards, D Jones, Featherstone. Booking: Austin (48)

Ref: Christopher Sarginson (Staffordshire)

Att: 3,172 (Pools 300)