Roy Kelly’s Pools analysis: Now the pressure’s really on to secure precious wins in fight for survival

Pools fans celebrate Rhys Oates' second-half leveller against Carlisle. Picture by Frank Reid
Pools fans celebrate Rhys Oates' second-half leveller against Carlisle. Picture by Frank Reid

One point gained or two points dropped?

That was the question after Hartlepool United fought back from a goal down to draw with promotion-hopefuls Carlisle United yesterday.

Carl Magnay fires over a cross for Pools against Carlisle

Carl Magnay fires over a cross for Pools against Carlisle

Boss Dave Jones viewed it as a point gained given the standing of the opposition and the fact Pools trailed early on to the Cumbrians.

We will probably only know how good – or bad – a result when the season grinds to a halt on the night of May 6.

One thing we know already is that Pools are going to need to dig out more than draws from now until the visit of champions-elect Doncaster on that final Saturday of the season.

In fact, Jones’s side look like needing to win the next three to make certain of retaining their Football League status – or a minimum of two.

Pools visit rock bottom Leyton Orient on Monday before hosting Barnet a week today and travel to fellow strugglers Cheltenham on April 29.

There are no shortage of scenarios, but one thing looks sure – Newport will carry on winning.

The Welsh club were bottom of the table and 11 points adrift of safety when caretaker boss Mike Flynn took over from the sacked Graham Westley in early March and now they are one point behind Pools.

Jones and his side are going to have to pull out all the stops to stay above the Welsh side.

It could be that Pools and Newport both stay up and Cheltenham or Yeovil perish.

But for Pools to survive, they must win games and score goals. They have mustered only five in the last eight matches and have not registered more than one goal since the first Saturday in March.

You would like to think a fixture at Brisbane Road against an O’s side who have conceded 22 times in their last seven outings would be an ideal time to do it.

Pools will certainly need to up their game on the evidence of yesterday’s display at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.

There was no shortage of effort – you could not accuse the home players of not giving their all.

But they are going to have to produce quality and not just quantity.

Too often, the ball was simply hammered forward, indiscriminately, towards Padraig Amond, who found himself constantly isolated.

Defensively, Pools did all right, following the early present which gave Carlisle the lead, but they are going to have to sharpen up their act in the final third.

The way Pools started gave hope of a Good Friday, Nathan Thomas bringing a save out of Mark Gillespie after just 51 seconds, following a shot from outside the box.

However, Carlisle went ahead in the seventh minute and it was easy, way too easy.

Jabo Ibehre, who scored the winner in this fixture last season, got the better of Scott Harrison from Danny Grainger’s throw from the left wing.

The experienced forward strolled through and beat Joe Fryer with a low shot.

Jamie Proctor headed wide when unmarked from John O’Sullivan’s cross from the right straight from the re-start and there was almost a second in the 11th minute when Liam Donnelly’s chest back to Fryer almost let in O’Sullivan, but the keeper got to the ball before the away midfielder.

The only Pools sights at goal fell to Lewis Alessandra, who shot too high and then too wide. But it has to be said that Pools were not helped by some blatant time-wasting.

They could get little flow because of the constant interruptions.

Were Carlisle cheating? Cynical? Or simply cute? Probably a case of all three.

Whatever your view of the away tactics, Pools could not get going and the hosts were indebted to Brad Walker for clearing a shot off line from Proctor.

The second half followed a similar pattern, with long delays for treatment to Ibehre and Luke Joyce.

But, oddly enough, there was no more time wasting after the 65th minute.

That was when Pools drew level through Oates. The hosts had needed a bit of magic to get back into the game and, while it was hardly Paul Daniels, Pools liked this a lot.

The attacker charged a Grainger clearance down the Cumbrians’ left side and showed great determination to get to the ball first and finished with aplomb, with his left foot, into Gillespie’s right corner from 10 yards.

That lifted Pools and Thomas and Liam Donnelly had tame attempts from outside the box.

Eight minutes from time, Thomas flashed one agonisingly wide from 16 yards with his left boot.

Heaven knows how Carlisle did not score moments later from a Grainger corner as centre-half Shaun Brisley was denied by blocks from Fryer and Donnelly while Ibehre hit the post.

Ibehre had the ball in the net only to be pulled back for foul after a tug on a defender and sub George Waring did likewise in injury time, but he had blatantly impeded Fryer.

A draw was not an unfair outcome and, for all the spirit shown by Pools, it is wins they need now.