Wimbledon 2 Hartlepool United 0: Match analysis, Haloween horror show, yes, but sack the manager?

Callum Kennedy celebrates scoring AFC Wimbledon's opening goal
Callum Kennedy celebrates scoring AFC Wimbledon's opening goal

Uncomfortable afternoons.

If you are a fan of Hartlepool United, they are an occupational hazard.

Oh for a 2015 version of Jan Ove Pedersen


Should you want afternoons of high-skill and triumph, get yourself to the Etihad, Emirates or Stamford Bridge. Oh, hang on, may be not the latter at the moment.

Saturday’s League Two match at Kingsmeadow was gory rather than glory, probably apt given it was October 31.

This was horror and pain with capitals ‘H’ and ‘P’.

If supporters thought the first 45 minutes against Crawley was the worst half of football for some time, Pools successfully trumped that in South-West London.

Pools were flattered by a two-goal margin. It could have been much worse but for some excellent keeping by Trevor Carson and sympathetic refereering by Lee Collins.

It was an abject performance.

Pools barely got out of their own half and never reached the Wimbledon box in the first period.

The second half was considerably better though, in truth, it could not have got worse.

It was an uncomfortable afternoon for the 255 supporters and for the owners, JPNG, who were at Kingsmeadow in equally-impressive numbers.

Chairman Gary Coxall was honest enough to admit afterwards that the performance was unacceptable, especially for those travelling Poolies.

While it made for painful viewing it was perhaps a good thing that Mr C was there.

For all the press reports, tweets, message board posts, there is no better proof than watching it with your own eyes.

Mr Coxall and those who now run Pools will look to take action this week.

For those hoping that involves the proverbial axe falling on the neck of boss Ronnie Moore will be disappointed.

The sight of the chairman shaking the hand and embracing the manager in the main stand afterwards suggests the pair remain close.

New talent, new legs, new mindset.

That is what is required, not a new manager. Of the team which started at Kingsmeadow, only two could say they deserve to retain their jerseys for this Saturday’s FA Cup clash with in-form Cheltenham Town.

Carson was simply top drawer and Matthew Bates, back in the starting XI for the suspended Scott Harrison, fought an at-times lone battle against the Wombles.

Who Coxall, Russ Green and Moore can bring in this week is very much open to conjecture.

Loan deals will be key, though how many teams will permit their players to get cup-tied is debatable, which leaves players currently without clubs or targets abroad.

Oh for a 2015 version of Jan Ove Pedersen.

Alan Tate is an option, should Moore and sidekick Sam Collins feel the 33-year-old is fit for the rigours of a League Two battle. Dare I say relegation battle? May be not yet.

Tate is without a club after leaving Swansea in the summer and could sign today, but his fitness, both match and long-term, may be queried.

Even if he signs, he is unlikely to feature in the XI to start against Cheltenham. Worryingly, Moore will have to send out pretty much the same team he selected against the Dons. He hasn’t much choice.

You hope there will be a reaction from the players, but, having said that, you thought that after the Crawley defeat.

The first half in the sunshine at Kingsmeadow was as bad as it gets.

The defending was woeful though the lads at the back were not alone.

In front of them, the midfielder were too slow, in mind and deed. The Wimbledon quartet of George Francomb, Jake Reeves, Dannie Bulman and Callum Kennedy were utterly dominant.

Up front, Rakish Bingham, especially, and Billy Paynter lost the ball within seconds, that’s if they got to it in the first place. The Wimbledon defence will not have an easier Saturday afternoon all season.

The fact the ball kept coming back with alarming frequency meant the Pools defence was under constant pressure.

But, not for the first time, Pools did not aid their cause with some terrible defending as the Wombles went ahead in the 18th minute.

Pools conceded a needless free-kick wide on the right.Kennedy put in an excellent left-footed deliver. No-one got near the ball which bounced off the ground into the right-hand corner of Carson’s net.

The second home goal 10 minutes later was even more painful to watch.

Magnus Okuonghae made hash of heading what, for him, should have been a regulation clearance. The ball floated instead into the away box where Matthew Bates and Dan Jones seemed to leave the clearing work to each other.

Lyle Taylor did not hesitate and his stunning right-foot volley flew in off Carson’s right-hand post.

Pools’ cause was not helped by the departure on 37 minutes of Okuonghae with an ankle problem. With no defender on the bench, Moore brought on Kudus Oyenuga on the left, with Jake Carroll moving back to left-back and Jones filling in at centre-half.

The only moment of note for Pools in the first half was a four-man move which ended with Michael Woods shooting straight at Ben Wilson.

Pools were better after the break – they could not have done worse – but the chances kept going Wimbledon’s way.

Carson saved low down to his right to keep out Ade Azeez, before keeping out a Jon Meades header and a deflected Reeves shot.

Pools were grateful to the post and Carson for not going three down in the 74th minute.

Referee Collins awarded the hosts the softest of soft penalties when Oyenuga won the ball from Taylor, who went to ground.

Taylor picked himself up and beat Carson from the spot only to see his effort from 12 yards hit the post. Bulman was first to the rebound but Carson pulled off an reaction amazing save.

The Wombles soon celebrated number three from the corner when that man-mountain, sub Ade Akinfenwa headed in.

However, Mr Collins, perhaps realising he had made a ‘horlicks’ of the penalty decision, ruled it out for a push.

It sparked Pools into life, with sub Scott Fenwick excellent up front. He saw a header clawed out by Elliott for a corner before Oyenuga had an overhead kick just clear the bar by inches.

Nicky Featherstone saw a positive run in the box end with him falling to the floor under pressure from three Wimbledon opponents.

A goal 10 minutes from time would have given Pools an unlikely – and undeserved – route back.

But having awarded one dodgy penalty already, Mr Collins decided against a second questionable award.