RICHARD MENNEAR’S MATCH ANALYSIS: Pools’ winning feeling again

Hartlepool United (2) V Cheltenham Town (0). Jones watches the ball go in, only to have the goal disallowed seconds later.
Hartlepool United (2) V Cheltenham Town (0). Jones watches the ball go in, only to have the goal disallowed seconds later.

IT has been so long since Hartlepool United won a league game that some supporters didn’t know what to do with themselves at the final whistle.

Pools had gone without victory for 12 long matches in Sky Bet League Two. Would it be a case of unlucky number 13? Thankfully not.

Boss Ronnie Moore was understandably delighted to celebrate his first win and his input cannot be underestimated.

He is no-nonsense and takes no prisoners – it is his way or the high way and the players reacted to the manager’s jibe that they would soon be stacking shelves in a supermarket if they didn’t buck their ideas up.

Where would Pools be if Moore had been given the job back in October when the situation was crying out for an experienced manager?

We will never know but there is, at least, now some hope.

For this was as good a performance as supporters have seen in a long time.

The spine of the team was immense, Scott Harrison and Dan Jones put in a performance beyond their years, while Michael Woods in front of them dictated play.

And for once, both strikers scored to cap off an impressive shift by Rakish Bingham – who adds raw pace up front – and the wily Scott Fenwick.

Elation filled the air at Victoria Park at the end of a 2-0 win against a poor Cheltenham side.

It saw the gap to safety reduce to seven points with belief returning that perhaps, after all, Pools could pull off their own Great Escape this season.

This was a start, no more, and the players need to reproduce similar displays for the rest of the season.

Tougher tests lie ahead in the next two away games at promotion chasing Shrewsbury Town and then relegation rivals Tranmere Rovers.

But, at least, they finally showed some desire, commitment and belief – something which has been lacking all season.

In order to achieve anything in football home form is always vital and this season’s has been horrendous.

Until Saturday teatime Pools had managed to achieve just one win all season, way back in September – a 2-0 win over Shrewsbury, coincidentally.

The inability to keep a clean sheet has been a key reason with the last one coming at the end of September but against Cheltenham, Harrison and Jones looked impenetrable.

Victory was built on a solid foundation at the back.

Pools, lining up in an attacking 4-4-2 formation, pressed Paul Buckle’s Cheltenham from the off.

Moore had his side playing with a much higher tempo – a vast improvement on the Morecambe match – and it was the home side that carved out the first openings.

Jonathan Franks’ tame effort was easily held by Trevor Carson before Jack Compton’s curling effort flew just wide.

In the 10th minute, Carson was again called into action, diving to his left to save Bingham’s 20-yard curled attempt from the edge of the area.

Up the other end skipper Scott Flinders had enjoyed a relatively quiet opening 45 minutes, the stopper called into action just once in the 13th minute, diving to his left to deny Jack Dunn’s powerful effort.

Pools should have gone in front earlier but Fenwick scuffed a glorious chance from close range in the 23rd minute after being played in by Woods.

Finally Pools took a deserved lead seven minutes before the break.

Jack Compton’s pin-point cross flashed across the face of goal and Fenwick got in front of Craig Braham-Barrett to poke the ball home at the far post.

Moore had called for more from his “inconsistent” wingers and Compton came up trumps.

The players all rushed to celebrate as one – something not seen too often from this Hartlepool side.

The opening 45 minutes was a strong base from which to build in the second half, something Pools have struggled to do this campaign.

After a shaky opening few minutes, when Cheltenham had a Dunn goal disallowed for offside, Pools settled into their rhythm.

Franks had a shot blocked before Fenwick almost put them 2-0 up in the 56th minute.

A Compton free-kick was deflected off Woods into the path of the former Dunston striker but his shot was blocked by Liverpool loanee Lloyd Jones on the line.

It was a huge chance and one Fenwick should have taken but supporters didn’t have to wait too much longer before they were celebrating a second in the 68th minute.

It actually came from a Cheltenham corner, the ball eventually cleared to Bingham who took a touch before playing in Woods.

He then played it back to the onrushing Bingham who burst forward before finishing well, low past the diving Carson, into the corner of the net.

Fenwick almost added a third but flashed his shot just wide of the post before Jones had a goal ruled out for offside.

Not that he had noticed, he was wildly celebrating before it became apparent it didn’t count.

Pools continued to attack a poor Cheltenham outfit, with Carson diving to save Franks’ effort.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, late on Flinders came and flapped at an attempted catch which allowed Kevin Stewart to head an effort off the post from 12-yards out.

Then sub Byron Harrison flicked a header onto the crossbar in the 90th minute.

There was a bizarre ending to proceedings as Harrison and Dunn clashed leading to a mass coming together including several players from both sides.

In the middle of the madness referee Richard Clark blew the final whistle before booking the pair.

Cue a huge sense of relief around Victoria Park as Moore picked up his first win.

The test now is to build on the victory in the upcoming back-to-back away games.

For now though, supporters are just pleased to be celebrating that winning feeling once again.