RICHARD MENNEAR’S MATCH ANALYSIS: Newport County 2 Hartlepool United 2

GOAL! Jordan Hugill scores  for Hartlepool United against Newport County. Picture by FRANK REID
GOAL! Jordan Hugill scores for Hartlepool United against Newport County. Picture by FRANK REID

ONE point gained or two lost?

We won’t know the answer to that until the end of the season.

It is Pools who have the momentum after a remarkable run of results


But it does show how far Hartlepool United have come under Ronnie Moore that a point away to a side battling for promotion almost felt like a disappointing result.

Cut adrift just a month ago, the point at Newport County keeps Pools out of the drop zone, a point above Tranmere Rovers and three above Cheltenham Town.

Yet at one stage it looked like being a very Good Friday for Pools.

An own goal from Lee Minshull and a first for Jordan Hugill put Pools 2-0 up, shocking the home supporters and delighting the 239 travelling fans in equal measure.

If Moore’s side had managed to survive until half-time with their two-goal lead intact, they could well have been coming away with all three points.

In the end they had to settle for a draw.

A County equaliser two minutes after the re-start from Aaron O’Connor dashed hopes of a win.

Moore described it as “10 crazy minutes” that did for his side, while he was also critical of the defending for both goals.

Yet, the 62-year-old couldn’t have been happier with the spirit and resolve shown by his players for the rest of the half, as they battled against a niggly County side.

There was stoppage after stoppage with little flow or tempo in the second half at Rodney Parade.

Minshull, in particular, was running the game as a result of stand-in referee Kevin Johnson losing control.

It led to Scott Harrison – who had been booked after just eight minutes following a tussle with Minshull – being subbed by Moore before he was red carded.

The game was scrappy, lacking in any real quality, so both sides had to battle.

Moore has instilled that in his side in recent months.

They work hard for each other and in the end managed to come away with a solid point and one which extended their unbeaten run.

Five games now – four wins and a draw – ahead of another tough game against play-off contenders Southend United on Monday at Victoria Park.

Carlisle snatched a last-ditch draw at home to Portsmouth, Tranmere Rovers secured a point at Stevenage and Cheltenham Town were beaten by relegation rivals York City.

It couldn’t be tighter and will go down to the wire.

Yet, it is Pools who have the momentum after a remarkable run of results.

Four weeks ago they were nine points from safety, now they are nine points from 15th. One thing is guaranteed though, there will be many more twists and turns to come.

Pools never make it easy do they? What was an easy decision for Moore though was to stick with a winning side.

Aaron Tshibola shrugged off a groin strain to make the starting line-up, with Moore keeping faith with the same players and 3-5-2 formation.

The first chance fell to O’Connor, his right-footed shot curling just wide of Scott Flinders’ right-hand post.

Despite the home side’s stronger start, Pools then took an unexpected 15th-minute lead.

Workaholic Franks did well to recover a Dan Jones free-kick and played the ball to Michael Duckworth who whipped the ball to the back post.

Under pressure from Brad Walker, Minshull headed it past his own keeper Joe Day.

It was just the start Moore wanted.

It should have been 2-0 on the half-hour mark, Franks again terrorising the defence before flashing his shot across the face of goal.

He has struck up an instant partnership with Hugill and the Middlesbrough-born striker was almost celebrating his first goal moments later – Andy Sandell just managing to clear the ball before Hugill pounced on the line.

His second chance came in the 37th minute and he didn’t miss. The impressive Franks saw his fierce 20-yard shot crash onto the crossbar, Tshibola doing well to head the rebound back across goal to Hugill who tapped it home.

Newport were rattled and while Pools weren’t quite cruising, they were in certainly in control.

Then it all started to unravel. In the 44th minute, the ball was played to County captain Darren Jones who had time to pick his spot from 20-yards, fizzing a first-time effort past Flinders.

Gut-wrenching, yes, but Pools still had the lead.

It didn’t last past the 47-minute mark.

David Tutonda played a lovely through ball to O’Connor who hit it first time past Flinders into the corner of the net. Pools had been carved open.

From then on in, it was a battle to secure the point.

Nicky Featherstone and Tshibola, who had dominated the midfield in the first half, were closed out of the game while the service to Franks was non-existent after the break.

He barely touched the ball while up the other end Newport’s players were trying their best to see Harrison red carded.

Minshull was the chief culprit.

The red mist seemed to be descending so Moore stepped in and subbed the centre back. A wise decision as Pools switched to a flat-back four.

Flinders saved at point-blank range to deny Ismail Yakubu, the stopper lucky not to concede a penalty with the follow-up save as he seemed to clip the defender’s ankles.

Hugill then went close after beating Day to a header before Mirfin produced a wonderful block to deny Tutonda up the other end.

In the end, both had to settle for a point.

Most would have settled for that beforehand and come early May, it could prove a crucial one.

It maintains the momentum and sets it up nicely for the visit of Southend United.

A win against Phil Brown’s side would cap a cracking Easter for this resurgent Pools side.

Moore had praise for Franks, while he was pleased to see Hugill score his first since signing on loan from Preston North End.

He added: “Franksy was a constant threat first half.

“He did exactly what we wanted and on another day, he might have had a hat-trick.

“Jordan was in the right place at the right time for his goal and they have both worked really hard.

“Since we changed the system, the two strikers have been fantastic.”

Pools were backed by 239 supporters at Rodney Parade on Good Friday and Moore again thanked them for their ongoing support.

He added: “The support was fantastic again and I bet they couldn’t believe it when we were 2-0 up!

“I thank them for their support and I thank the lads for their performance.

“I didn’t have any need to moan or groan afterwards.”