What we learned from Hartlepool United's 1-0 win at Maidenhead United
Hartlepool United battled to their first three points of the 2019-20 National League season at Maidenhead on Saturday afternoon as substitute Niko Muir’s second half strike sealed a 1-0 win.
There was always the feeling that Pools would have to really work for their first win of the season given the competitive nature of the league. And despite their dominance, they did.
Performance-wise, it wasn’t a massive improvement from Halifax in midweek. Hartlepool got on the ball and controlled the game early on but it was just a case of the ‘little things’ Hignett had discussed which were mostly put right throughout the 90-minutes.
The lapses in concentration weren’t as apparent at York Road and certainly weren’t being punished by Maidenhead.
An element of luck – as there often is – was involved for Hartlepool as Maidenhead ought to have levelled late on. Josh Kelly’s free six-yard header was directed straight at Ben Killip.
It was the only real chance The Magpies had but the game would have told a completely different story had it gone in.
The most encouraging development from Saturday’s match was the improved defensive cohesion between the back-four and goalkeeper.
Little got past Michael Raynes and Fraser Kerr in the middle while Mark Kitching and Peter Kioso impressed at both ends of the field, leaving Killip with little to do between the sticks as Pools earned a deserved clean sheet.
For all the positives, there was an undercurrent of familiar issues for Pools which would have been far more pressing had Kelly’s header punished them.
As much as they played well and controlled the game for the most part, the fact they only had a rebounded goal to show for it suggests more conviction is still required.
But that should come, Hartlepool have shown enough to suggest they will only get better especially with some key players soon returning to the fray.
Ryan Donaldson’s first minutes of the season were very impressive as he played a key role in the victory despite being disappointed not to score himself.
Overall, a win’s a win and hopefully this one can help Pools kick-start their season ahead of Tuesday’s test at home to AFC Fylde (7:45pm kick-off).