What we learned from Hartlepool United's 0-0 draw at Chorley - round-up and analysis
Things aren't getting any better for Hartlepool United this season but at least they're not getting any worse, right?
Saturday's 0-0 draw at Chorley was just as stagnant and tiresome as the scoreline suggested - doing little to inspire some much needed positivity ahead of the Bank Holiday clash with Wrexham back at Victoria Park.
Pools now have one just one from their first six games, leaving them 19th in the National League table.
But it could have been worse for them at Victory Park had Chorley's Ntumba Massanka not missed a virtually open goal from six-yards out inside the opening 20-minutes.
After that, Craig Hignett's side defended reasonably well with Ben Killip dealing with what little came his way with ease.
As the game wore on, it was proving to be one of Pools' most disjointed and least convincing attacking performances of the season so far. It took until the final 10-minutes for them to finally push bodies forward and threaten in the final third.
The visitors eventually registered their first effort on target in the 89th as Luke James' flick-on header was tipped over by Billy Crellin in the Chorley goal. But come the full-time whistle, Pools should have really wrapped up the three points as Gavan Holohan found himself in space inside the penalty area with just the goalkeeper to beat - unfortunately his shot went wide and two points were dropped.
"When you get big moments in games, you’ve got to take them but we didn’t," said Pools boss Hignett.
"It wasn’t for the want of trying but the quality was missing. We were rushed in the final third, instead of playing it out we were just clearing it and playing it in channels which isn’t us.
"We like to play through the thirds and get people on the ball. We didn’t do that consistently enough, we had spells but not enough.
"At the minute, we’re just huffing and puffing going forward. Gime [Toure] was frustrating but did some really good things and Luke James and Nicke Kabamba were the same when they came on.
"Niko [Muir] up front barely had a shot on goal but worked hard. When you having a day like that you want your midfield to come and chip in.
"We worked hard enough but the quality was missing in our play today."
Neither side could have too many complaints about the full-time result, which was more than fair based on the game as a whole. Hartlepool will be disappointed not to have won it given their chances at the end but Chorley looked the more likely to score for the vast majority of the game.
As Hignett alluded to, there was very little in terms of quality shown by either side on the day as they both looked apprehensive and desperate not to concede.
Chorley went into the game on the back of 6-1 and 4-1 defeat against Solihull Moors and Maidenhead United respectively so were understandably wanting to tighten things up at the back.
Pools were in a similar boat having conceded 10 goals already this season and opted to start with three centre-backs as Myles Anderson returned for his first appearance of the new season.
Unfortunately Anderson was forced off due to a head injury picked up in the second half. Forward Niko Muir was also withdrawn due to a pulled hamstring shortly after.
There weren't many positives to take from the game as a whole. The defensive display and clean sheet was probably the only source of encouragement after a miserable few weeks for the United back-line.
Killip put in a solid display, making a handful of good saves though none of them ones that you wouldn't expect an England C international goalkeeper to be making comfortably.
"It'll be great for Ben's confidence because he's had a really solid game," Hignett admitted.
"He's made some good saves and I thought his distribution was good, he was safe, came out at the right times and his starting positions were always spot on so I think he can be really pleased with his afternoon."
The change in formation for Pools from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2 worked to help shore things up defensively but they offered very little in attack until they were forcibly reverted back to a four following Anderson's injury.
Defender Michael Raynes commented: "We’re comfortable adjusting to three at the back or four at the back because we’ve got the bodies to adjust.
"We started with a five then halfway through switched to a four so it’s good to have that in your armour."
As literally everyone who has ever been involved in National League football says, 'every game is tough in this league' and Chorley should be no different. But while Pools did well to keep a much needed clean sheet, this isn't a result they should be content with.
Poolies won't need it spelling out to them that a goalless draw away against a part-time, newly-promoted Chorley side who had conceded 10 goal in their two matches going into the game ultimately isn't good enough.
Hopefully it won't be indicative of what is to come for Hartlepool this season, but six games in and there's still few signs that progress is being made on the field.
Still, it's nothing a big Bank Holiday Monday win over Wrexham at The Vic couldn't solve!