Richard Mennear’s match analysis: Safety back within sight for Hartlepool after Northampton win

Marvin Morgan in action for Hartlepool United in their 1-0 win over Northampton. Picture by FRANK REID
Marvin Morgan in action for Hartlepool United in their 1-0 win over Northampton. Picture by FRANK REID

IN A heartbeat, Marvin Morgan showed why Ronnie Moore had travelled the length of the country to see him play a reserve match.

His two goals that day for Plymouth Argyle’s reserves convinced Moore he was the right man for Pools and he repaid that faith with the winning goal last night.

David Mirfin in action for Hartlepool United in their 1-0 win over Northampton. Picture by FRANK REID

David Mirfin in action for Hartlepool United in their 1-0 win over Northampton. Picture by FRANK REID

His 51st mintue winner was as cool as you like and it sent the Town End into ecstasy.

It also sent Pools within six points of safety, with nobody else from 16th down in League Two winning.

Last night couldn’t have gone much better for Pools, a third win on home soil and two clean sheets out of three at The Vic.

While Morgan was the match-winner, Jack Compton was the stand-out performer.

Hartlepool United match winner  Marvin Morgan at the end of the1-0 win over Northampton. Picture by FRANK REID

Hartlepool United match winner Marvin Morgan at the end of the1-0 win over Northampton. Picture by FRANK REID

Banished from the squad that travelled down to Portsmouth and involved in a Twitter row with Scott Harrison after that game, his future looked bleak.

Moore had also tried to swap him with ex-Pools forward Andy Monkhouse, of Bristol Rovers, on deadline day.

But he was back with a bang last night and looked sharp throughout.

He was the driving force behind the victory, which could have been far more comfortable had a few late chances gone in.

It was a deserved win too, with Northampton struggling to create clear chances despite their swell of pressure late on.

Going into the game, Pools had been dealt a major blow on the eve of the match with in-form Scott Fenwick missing with an ankle knock, he is now a doubt for Saturday too.

It led to Moore bringing Marlon Harewood in to partner Morgan up front in a forward line lacking pace.

Pools were industrious throughout the opening 45 minutes but lacked any real quality in the final third.

Again clear cut chances were few and far between, following in the same vein as the Portsmouth match which saw Pools fail to record a single shot on target.

The team looked like it had almost gone backwards in the past week, with the attacking 4-3-3 formation ditched in favour of first 3-5-2 and last night 4-4-2, both of which stunted Pools’ creative flow.

Moore’s options were restricted by the injuries to Fenwick and Matthew Bates but the team selected should still have been capable of creating more in the opening 45.

It was a tight start to proceedings, with Pools enjoying the lions share of possession.

Compton looked lively and as if he had a point to prove flashing an effort just wide early on.

Lively Compton then had a penalty appeal turned away by County Durham official Nigel Miller in the 20th minute.

Brendan Moloney had upended him in the box but it looked weak despite Compton’s strong appeals.

The left-winger was again involved seven minutes later, flashing a low shot just wide of Matt Duke’s goal after David Mirfin knocked the ball down to him.

Mirfin, again impressive at the back, had to be alert ten minutes before the break to throw himself in front of a goalbound Marc Richards effort from close range.

Further chances of note were scarce in a half lacking in any real quality.

But the second half was an altogether different story, with Pools taking the lead six minutes in.

Morgan took advantage of a poor misplaced backpass from Lee Collins to finish low past Matt Duke from the edge of the penalty area to cue wild celebrations from the Town End.

The on-loan 31-year-old Plymouth Argyle striker only had two goals to his name all season before tonight.

But his coolness in front of goal showed exactly why Moore had decided to travel to Devon and back to watch the reserves clash.

That also convinced Morgan to join Pools and turn down offers from other League Two and Scottish Premiership sides.

Seven minutes later and it was almost 2-0.

Harewood broke forward with purpose before backheeling the ball to Compton who curled a fine effort first time from 25-yards.

Flying Duke was just about equal to it to push it away for a corner.

Morgan’s goal had reinvigorated Pools, who had been static and lacking ideas in the first half against an in-form Northampton side that had won their last five matches.

Compton was again at it in the 70th minute, his deft curling effort just about dealt with by Duke diving low to his left.

Moore sensed a Northampton Town onslaught and so replaced Morgan and Franks with the more defensive minded Dan Jones and Nicky Featherstone with 12 minutes left to play.

He switched to a 3-5-2 with the away side pressing for an equaliser.

Pools were under the cosh and getting deeper and deeper but still managed to create chances on the break.

Compton and Harewood both guilty of missing good opportunities to add to the lead.

It was tense, end-to-end and exhilirating play from both sides as the momentum ebbed one way and then the next.

Moore was screaming from the touchline, urging his side to push further forward, as the pressure continued to mount.

That pressure should have been relieved in the 90th minute but Harewood missed a gilt edged one-on-one.

Flinders was the hero in added on time, he flew through the air to deny Ryan Cresswell’s header late on.

It proved a vital stop as moments later referee Miller blew his whistle.

A resilient Pools had won and the relief, like the fog, had lifted from Victoria Park.

Safety is back within sight.