Will the real Hartlepool United please stand up?
Surely, it’s not too much to ask? Watching Pools often requires the patience of a Mother Teresa.
It could, and should, have been different. Pools simply gave it away.
But it’s hard to understand how the performances can fluctuate.
In fact, fluctuate is too mild an assessment – Pools are up and down like a fiddler’s elbow and I’m not talking about someone cheating with their benefits.
Pools have been up against Leyton Orient, Oxford United and now, at home to Plymouth Argyle, albeit two of those three ended in defeat.
But they have followed up such performances by plumbing the depths against Mansfield and Salford City.
The scoreline above reads that Pools suffered their fourth league defeat in a row .
But, it could, and should have been different. Pools simply gave it away.
Ronnie Moore’s side had a point, seemingly, in the bag after Scott Fenwick had beaten Kal Naismith to the ball and then beaten Luke McCormick by rolling the ball into the keeper’s bottom right corner.
The striker had successfully won a penalty after drawing the foul from defender Kelvin Mellor.
It has to be said, it was one of the few mistakes of the afternoon by the right-back who frustrated first Rhys Oates and then his replacement, Rakish Bingham.
But Pools were level and while, until at that stage you could argue Plymouth, in boxing [parlance, were ‘ahead on points’, there was plenty from the home side to argue that it was no more than they deserved.
A point against a side of Plymouth’s calibre would have been one to savour, especially given they had to come from a goal down after Carl McHugh had stroked in a well-taken opener for the Pilgrims on 77 minutes.
However, there was to be a sting in the tail. Given he had barely given away possession all afternoon, his decision to make a blind pass back in his own half rather than stick the ball up the line into away territory wasinexplicable.
Plymouth took full advantage. Moving the ball slickly from left to right, Tyler Harvey laid it off to Brunt who in turn moved it to Ben Purrington. The sub squared it into the path of the aforementioned Mellor who had escaped the attention of Rakish Bingham.
Mellor made amends for his penalty concession by finishing superbly past Carson. It was a kick in the teeth for Pools.
By the time the Pilgrims had finished their celebrations and re-convened n their own half, the match was in stoppage time.
There were appeals from the Town End for handball against Ryan Brunt – just outside the box – after the ball bounced up and struck the forward on the arm. Given the reluctance of referee, Graham Salisbury, to penalise this offence all afternoon , it was no surprise Argyle cleared.
It was to be the final Pools hurrah. A point would have kept them 20th, but instead they have dropped to 21st following Newport’s draw as Pools get uncomfortably close to the bottom two.
Fortunately, Dagenham & Redbridge lost but Yeovil moved a point nearer and York three points.
There is no need to panic – the gap with the drop zone is seven points. But Pools need to start playing like this every week – not every other week or every third Saturday.
Tuesday’s display against Salford lacked just about everything bar guts. Pools showed plenty of that against the Pilgrims but this time there was energy and endeavour as they got at the promotion-chasers as Moore had demanded.
There was some football too. With Naismith making a welcome return after a three-match absence, Michael Woods restored to the starting XI and Jake Gray keen to get forward, Pools had the better of the first half without real scaring McCormick in the away goal.
Pools were unlucky in the 18th minute when Naismith’s cross from the right wa seized on by Woods who fired towards goal, only for the shot to be saved.
But it was not by the hands of McCormick and Plymouth, it appeared had a narrow escape.
Despite Pools getting on the front foot with the first attack of the second half, the Pilgrims soon took charge.
They had a strong wind at their backs and they looked bright and breezy, with a succession of shots.
Granted, the vehicles in the carpark and the fans in the Rink End were under greater danger than Trevor Carson’s goal but it was an indicator of how the balance of play had shifted.
It needed a desperate double block by Matthew Bates and Adam Jackson to keep out Brunt in the 77th minute but an away goal was just seconds away.
McHugh was afforded too much too and space and he finished expertly to Carson’s right. You could not say it was not coming nor was it undeserved.
It was almost over inside two minutes as Carson fumbled a Brunt shot but the keeper recovered superbly to push the rebound to safety.
That recovery proved crucial. Pools pushed forward and set up camp in the away half. And seven minutes from time they were rewarded.
Bates sent in a great cross with pace towards Fenwick, only for Mellor to impede the striker.
Mr Salisbury, for one of the rare occasions of the afternoon, made a decision which did not anger the home fans. Fenwick made it clear to Naismith that he was taking the spot-kick which looked fair enough.
The delay may have put off some of a more nervous disposition but not Fenwick who sent McCormick the wrong way.
Pools had a point and had the momentum to try to go for all three only for that unhappy ending.