What we learned from Hartlepool United's 3-2 defeat against Bromley and where does Craig Hignett's side go from here?
When can we start to worry?
Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at home to Bromley was Hartlepool United’s third in five games so far this season as they sit 20th in the National League table.
Despite starting well at Victoria Park, Pools were undone early on by a simple Michael Cheek goal as he broke the defensive line and slipped the ball between Ben Killip’s legs.
To the hosts’ credit, they fought back well and drew themselves level just three minutes later as Gavan Holohan smashed the ball in from close range after Bromley failed to clear the danger.
It would be United who failed to clear the danger for the third goal in the game as Reeco Hackett-Fairchild reacted quickest to fire in following a corner.
But Pools continued to show their character as Gus Mafuta rounded off a lovely passing move with a clinical curling effort from 25-yards which nestled into the bottom right corner to make it 2-2 going in at half-time.
The hosts had the momentum at the start of the second half as Niko Muir was played through in almost exactly the same position as Cheek was for the opener. Instead of coolly rolling the ball into the net, the Hartlepool number 10 chose power as his effort crashed back off the right-hand post.
That should have made it 3-2 to Pools, but it didn’t and that miss chance was punished with 15-minutes to go as some defensive hesitation allowed Hackett-Fairchild to stroke in a simple finish from inside the six-yard box.
That confirmed another defeat as Pools’ disappointing start to the season continued.
Questions will be asked of the defence and goalkeeper following Saturday’s display and rightly so. Eight goals conceded in three home matches isn’t good enough at any level particularly if Pools want to be challenging at the right end of the table.
Killip has struggled so far in goal and hasn’t done anything to fill Poolies or even his own defenders with confidence. The young goalkeeper has looked nervous and shaky in almost every game with the exception of Maidenhead where he deservedly kept a clean sheet.
He was caught in no-mans land for Bromley’s crucial third goal after failing to commit to claiming for the ball which allowed for an simple tap-in for the Ravens’ forward. The saves he was making didn’t inspire much belief either with several needless parries from fairly tame efforts almost gifting further chances to the visitors.
Craig Hignett hinted that Killip was one of a few Pools players who will have to get used to the atmosphere and expectation that comes with playing at the Vic for Hartlepool United.
Being a new goalkeeper is such a difficult and often scrutinised role so some patience will be required though improvement is required for Pools’ sake.
One of the most frustrating things about Hartlepool’s disappointing start to the season is that on paper, this is one of the strongest squads we’ve seen in a good few years – so what is going wrong?
Obviously the injury situation hasn't helped, with a full roster of players to choose from Pools become a different beast entirely with the likes of potential game-changers Luke Molyneux, Josh Hawkes and Luke Williams still to return.
But some interesting comments from Hignett last week questioned the attitude of the modern day player in regard to having the desire to get fit and back playing again saying some of his players ‘just expect it to happen’.
The Pools’ boss continued that theme in his post match interviews with an eye-opening 10-minute long response when questioned on the fitness and desire of the squad (more on that in the Hartlepool Mail this week).
Still, injuries can’t be too much of an excuse when you have an outfield squad of 22 senior players.
As they have in most game so far, Hartlepool enjoyed plenty of the ball against Bromley but failed to make that possession count. Somewhat of a worrying theme emerging in the early stages of the season.
Although they scored twice, they were two goals necessary for Pools to see them claw themselves back into the game. It’s once they’re on the front foot when they struggle to convert their chances.
Creating chances hasn’t been an issue for Hartlepool but their conversion rate leaves a lot to be desired. Six goals from around forty efforts ultimately isn’t up to scratch and will be the difference between challenging or another season of mediocrity.
Gime Toure can’t do everything, he’s a luxury player capable of producing those magical moments but Pools’ game plan should never resort to just giving the Frenchman the ball and expecting him to come up with the goods – they’re better than that and haven’t quite resorted to that just yet.
It would be easy to blame Hignett for the poor start, it’s his team and his tactics after all so a lot of it does stop at his door.
But with the nature of the defeats – individual errors and slip-ups – the players need to take responsibility as well.
There’s 41 games left to put things right, ample time. But are people willing to be patient or will we see some big changes sooner rather than later?