Hartlepool United's 2-0 win over Stockport County analysed and assessed: Is the play-off dream back on?

A big crowd, a big performance, a big three points for Hartlepool United.

Sunday, 26th January 2020, 11:45 am
Gime Toure of Hartlepool United rues a missed chance during the Vanarama National League match between Hartlepool United and Stockport County at Victoria Park, Hartlepool on Saturday 25th January 2020. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

Their 2-0 win against Stockport County has turned what seemed like an unlikely play-off dream at the start of 2020 into a far more believable possibility going into the final three months of the campaign.

A home debut goal for Aidan Keena set the tone for a dominant performance with Mark Shelton making it 2-0 after the break by finishing off a well-worked attacking move.

Stockport rarely threatened the home side after the opening quarter-hour as Dave Challinor’s side kept their first clean sheet of the year with a new-look defence.

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Macauley Southam-Hales and Timi Odusina were thrust into the starting line-up following their Thursday loan arrivals and both gave a good account of themselves.

Southam-Hales had big shoes to fill following Peter Kioso’s departure but quickly answered any questions with a man of the match display on his debut.

In reality, several players could have been handed the accolade. Gavan Holohan continues to be Pools’ most influential attacking force as he played a key role in both goals.

Keena is almost Luke James-esque in the best way possible with his tenacity and workrate. Though not quite as technical, his striker instincts are sharp as proven by his goal. That simple, scrappy tap in is something we haven’t really seen enough of from Pools this season.

Hartlepool United's Aidan Keena celebrates after scoring their first goal during the Vanarama National League match between Hartlepool United and Stockport County at Victoria Park, Hartlepool on Saturday 25th January 2020. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

Shelton's strike was the opposite as Pools worked the ball around brilliantly before the midfielder caressed it into the bottom left corner.

That goal summed up a classy and composed performance on the whole. For spells, Pools were as good as we’ve seen them this season with an intensity and focus that was plain to see.

After previously laboured wins over poor opposition, this was refreshing as Challinor’s men took things up a level against a good Stockport side. They’ve brushed aside what they can now class as a play-off rival.

It’s now eight points from four games – the type of form they need to continue over the remaining 14 matches to guarantee a top seven finish.

Mark Shelton of Hartlepool United celebrates after scoring their second goal during the Vanarama National League match between Hartlepool United and Stockport County at Victoria Park, Hartlepool on Saturday 25th January 2020. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

Time to believe? Let’s see if they can back this up with a win at Barnet and then we’ll start talking.