Roy Kelly Analysis: Hartlepool need big Easter after draw at Morecambe

Padraig Amond celebrates his goal at Morecambe.
Padraig Amond celebrates his goal at Morecambe.

Easter is the most important festival if you are a Christian.

You may be a Christian, you may be of another faith or of no faith at all, but if you are reading this, the chances are you have some affiliation with Hartlepool United.

And Easter is going to be the most important weekend for Poolies.

Those who know the Northern Gas & Power Stadium will be able to visualise the banner ‘Victoria Park is my church’ on the Mill House side of the ground.

Poolies everywhere will be hoping their football prayers are answered this Good Friday at the Vic against Carlisle United and at Leyton Orient on Easter Monday.

Pools are in serious strife after failing to get three points in their must-win game at Morecambe on Saturday when Paul Mullin brought the Shrimps level on the hour after Padraig Amond had put Dave Jones’s side ahead five minutes before half-time.

With Newport County continuing their Great Escape bid with a 1-0 victory at Exeter City, Pools now have a mere three-point cushion over the resurgent Welsh outfit.

Should the worst happen this Friday and Pools lose to Carlisle and Newport beat Yeovil at home, then the boys in blue will be in the bottom two come the visit to Leyton Orient a week today.

But that is Easter Monday. The visit of the Cumbrians, currently clinging onto the last play-off spot in seventh, is the only match that matters to Pools.

It could, naturally, be worse – Pools could only be two points above Newport. At least they held on for a point, only the third draw of the 15-fixture tenure of Jones.

This reporter will stand by his assessment that Pools do not look like a relegation side.

Some of the football played and confidence shown was not that of a club clinging to life by its fingernails. But now is a time for results, it’s as simple as that.

Newport look capable of another three wins so that is the minimum Pools must aim for.

To be fair, it’s not a two-horse race – Cheltenham have a beastly run-in and Morecambe, who are not out of the woods on 47 points, have an horrific run-in.

But, as things stand, Newport are the side Pools must stay in front of.

There will be mixed emotions following this hard-fought, entertaining draw with out-of-sorts Morecambe – disappointment that they could not preserve a winning position but relief that they did not lose in the second half when lesser sides may have buckled under pressure.

It was something of a game of two halves in the sunshine, with Pools looking extremely bright from the off.

Dani Nizic, thrust in for his League Two debut between the Morecambe sticks, came out smartly early doors to deny Amond.

Featherstone failed to test the tall Aussie when he fired over the bar in the ninth minute but he caught comfortably when Thomas shot high at him after Brad Walker’s free-kick came back off the wall.

Harrison went wide with a volley from the edge of box, while Amond was off target from one of Michael Woods’s well-struck left corners.

Two of the best chances of the half for Pools, and perhaps the match, fell to the head and boot of Rhys Oates, and he really should have put both in the back of the net.

He somehow headed wide from only a few yards from Thomas’s 29th-minute corner from the right.

Oates had a golden opportunity to make amends when Lewis Alessandra found him with time and room in the area with a neat pass, but his right-foot effort, while on target, was tamely at Nizic.

Pools fans must have been thinking ‘what would have happened if the chance had fallen to Amond?’. We were soon to find out in the 39th minute.

Woods and Alessandra teamed up superbly down the right, with the latter threading a deft ball through to Amond, who flicked ball past Nizik with outside of his right boot.

Alas, for Pools, he could not repeat the trick 11 minutes into the second period after great work by Oates set him up, but the former Shrimp’s shot was diverted wide of the goalie’s right-hand upright.

But, for all Pools had the opening view of goal, Morecambe were the team on top, winning a string of corners.

They were the team in the ascendancy so it was no surprise when they levelled in the 59th minute. Centre-half Ryan Edwards had a shot blocked but the ball popped up nicely for Paul Mullin who was was there to follow up and head past Joe Fryer, Walker and Harrison.

There was controversy at the re-start when Mullin, having just scored got himself a yellow card for felling Thomas in the centre-circle, the Pools ace saying he had been elbowed.

Mullin stayed on the park and he set up Kevin Ellison in the 67th minute, only for Fryer to save well to his left from the veteran attacker.

Ellison had the goal at his mercy in the 76th minute from a good home long throw in but he missed the target when stretching.

Pools had another let-off 10 minutes from time when sub Aaron Wilding’s goal-bound shot struck Harrison.

If any team looked like winning it, it was the Shrimps, who had gone into the contest on the back of seven straight defeats.

Pools though got their second wind and f ive minutes from time, Amond hit the wall with a free-kick with Harrison just going wide from range.

The chances kept coming as Pools chased their fourth win in a row at the Globe.

Morecambe’s defence seemed to melt away at the end of 90 minutes as Featherstone strode towards the edge of the box. A shot was on but he tried to play in a team-mate only to over-hit the pass and the moment was lost.

It was not the end as Thomas had vociferous appeals for a penalty for handball rejected in stoppage time before having a shot blocked be Edwards.

Roll on Easter.