It might not be pretty, but wars seldom are.
Hartlepool United are in a fight for survival, not for the first time of course.
Like World War 1, this could be an attritional struggle with every yard scrapped for with bloody determination.
Pools lost again on a foreign field – their ninth defeat in the last 11 away days leaving the tally of just two points from a possible 33 since their last triumph on the road.
It is an abysmal record, relegation form in fact, but Pools are getting there, slowly and bit by bit.
Colchester United – their fourth successive promotion-chasing opponents – took the points and deservedly so.
The U’s had the best chances and forced a few good saves from Joe Fryer to boot.
But this was not the Pools from Newport, Mansfield or Luton, a sequence of 10 goals conceded and barely a shot in anger at the other end.
How different this was.
Pools played football, reached the opposition box and scrapped – all in the same 90-odd minutes.
Dave Jones feels Pools are almost there, but the club needs to be more than almost there – they can’t rely on Leyton Orient and Newport County to continue losing.
Jones will be heartened by the fact that, for the last two and a half games, Pools have competed with three sides with promotion aspirations and competed strongly.
Colchester earned their win, but Jones’s improving side pushed them all the way.
Granted, the build-up play was not matched by the final pass, cross or shot, but the confidence gained by the previous Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Plymouth was in evidence.
The defence, led by Scott Harrison, produced some excellent work and, on the occasions they messed up or were beaten, Fryer behind them was in great form.
The midfield was fluid, Nicky Featherstone adept in all areas, Michael Woods pushing forward and Lewis Alessandra building on his last display, taking up a number of good positions.
Padraig Amond ran all day and while that last ball from Nathan Thomas and Rhys Oates on his outsides did not match their endeavour, their was no doubting their effort.
In fact, it was a case of 10 out of 10 for effort, Oates providing one memorable glimpse in the first half when he not only cleared a corner but cleared out his opponent in the same motion.
Late on, Harrison produced a similar full-blooded challenge. Sadly, Kurtis Guthrie was hurt in the process and stretchered off. But the no-nonsense approach shows Pools have that fire in their bellies.
Pools made a canny start at the Weston Homes Stadium, without ever really working U’s keeper Scott Walker.
At the other end, Fryer earned his wage, saving low from a Bren Dickenson shot and then from the same player after mistakes by Richardson and Walker.
Errors were rare, though, from a side who defended with spirit.
However, they should have been punished 11 minutes from the break when a corner from the right travelled all the way through to the far post where George Elokobi inexplicably missed from a couple of yards. It was easier to score.
Pools played plenty of football, but Sam Walker’s only serious touch was to come out decisively after Thomas lifted a teasing cross towards Amond.
Pools went agonisingly close in the 47th minute when Liam Donnelly and Thomas teamed up nicely down the left, with Thomas’s early cross looking tailor-made for Amond. But he could not get his header on target.
Just before the hour, there was more good football, in every department. Donnelly made a cracking tackle, releasing Woods, who went forward before finding Amond. He passed to Alessandra, whose shot was blocked, but it proved what Pools could do.
Sadly, Pools can also give it away as they showed in the 63rd minute.
They lost possession and some neat home play found Richard Brindley on the right and his excellent cross was met by the head of Guthrie, who beat Fryer from six yards.
And Colchester’s second goal was another case of Pools shooting themselves in the foot.
Donnelly, who was otherwise excellent, got on the wrong side of Guthrie from Cameron James’s long ball. He collided with the forward twice in the box and, having not gone down from barge number one, predictably went to ground from the second.
Fryer went the right way for Chris Porter’s spot-kick, but the penalty was powerful and high to his right and made it 2-0.
All over? Not quite.
Pools were back in it in the 82nd minute.
Woods exchanged passes with Kenton Richardson before finding sub Louis Rooney, who sent Thomas through.
He raced into the box and passed the ball into the keeper’s bottom right corner from 15 yards.
Pools threw the kitchen sink at the U’s, with Rooney, Thomas and Featherstone having shots blocked.
The kitchen sink, alas, had an adverse effect as a lengthy injury stoppage for Guthrie to be treated and then carried off following a hard, but fair, Harrison challenge ruined the away side’s momentum.
Despite nine added minutes, the U’s survived.