Hartlepool United's 2-1 defeat at Woking analysed as familiar issues continue to haunt Dave Challinor's side following first defeat

Hartlepool United have passed the halfway point in the National League season, but the same old problems are still haunting them.

Sunday, 8th December 2019, 1:28 pm
Updated Sunday, 8th December 2019, 1:29 pm
Kenton Richardson heads the ball off the crossbar during the Vanarama National League match between Woking and Hartlepool United at the Kingfield Stadium, Woking on Saturday 7th December 2019. (Credit: Paul Paxford | MI News)
Kenton Richardson heads the ball off the crossbar during the Vanarama National League match between Woking and Hartlepool United at the Kingfield Stadium, Woking on Saturday 7th December 2019. (Credit: Paul Paxford | MI News)

The opening weekend of the campaign saw Pools concede three at home to Sutton United – three avoidable goals that raised initial warning signs over the side’s conviction at either end of the pitch.

Two managers, a caretaker manager, several formation changes and 23 league games later and some issues are still yet to be sufficiently addressed.

It’s not going to be a quick process, but a 2-1 defeat at Woking on Saturday afternoon highlighted once again that lapses of concentration are leading to avoidable goals and inevitably costing the team valuable points.

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The appointment of Dave Challinor as manager has seen issues in the final third for Pools addressed somewhat as they’ve scored 16 goals in his six matches since taking charge.

Despite the loss at the Laithwaite Community Stadium being Challinor's first since joining Pools, the side are yet to keep a clean sheet under the former AFC Fylde manager, conceding 10.

United went into the game at Woking on the back of a five game unbeaten run under their new boss and losing just one of their last 10 matches in all competitions.

The team were proving to be a difficult team to beat but it’s been more a case of outscoring their opponents rather than shutting them out.

After a fairly scrappy start over the weekend, Gime Toure’s penalty 25-minutes in gave Hartlepool a 1-0 lead as they started to take control and look comfortable.

But Woking, who were sitting fifth in the table, always looked like they could step things up a gear as the game went on and that’s just what they did.

With the 1-0 lead, Pools were either going to have to keep a clean sheet for the first time in nine matches or score another to claim the three points – they did neither.

The warning signs were there when Kane Ferdinand looked to have headed The Cards level on the stroke of half-time only for Pools to be let off by the linesman’s offside flag. A questionable decision.

Still, Challinor’s side were relatively comfortable in the match for the best part of an hour as they seemed to regain their composure after the break and push for a second.

Frustratingly, the second goal didn’t come their way as the hosts started to sense an opportunity to get something from the game.

Alan Dowson’s side started to get bodies forward and push for an equaliser.

And that seemed to take the visitors off guard somewhat as the panic stations set in and they struggled to get the ball out of their own half as they looked to hang on to their lead.

But their efforts proved futile as they failed to clear a ball into the penalty area as Woking top scorer Jake Hyde was able to turn and fire the ball in from close range to make it 1-1.

The home side now had the momentum and the crowd behind them with over 20-minutes remaining. And there was a sense of all too familiar inevitability when Dave Tarpey picked up a loose ball inside the Hartlepool half before lashing it into the top left corner from the edge of the box to give Woking the lead.

It was a great finish but one that came about due to Pools’ carelessness in possession and failure to deal with the danger yet again.

If recent weeks are anything to go by it’s that you should never write Challinor’s side off following their two goal comebacks in each of the previous two Saturdays.

But Woking were able to do what Pools couldn’t and held on to their lead for the final quarter-hour as they ran the clock down and frustrated their opponents.

Even then, United came within inches of snatching a point at the death as Kenton Richardson’s 96th minute header from Nicky Featherstone’s corner crashed back off the crossbar as the referee blew the full-time whistle immidiately after.

A fourth 2-2 draw in six games would have probably been a fair result on the run of play but it just wasn’t to be as Woking claimed the three points.

Ultimately, Pools didn’t do enough to put the game to bed and see it out when they were in control – as has been the story of all too many games this season.

The result sees them drop down to 14th in the table and six points off the play-off places. They had the chance to close the gap to just three points and still with a game in hand on some sides in and around them but couldn’t take it.

Threatening to challenge but failing to capitalise on the opportunities presented to them has been the story of Pools’ spell in the fifth tier so far.

It goes without saying that the goals they’re leaking needs to be addressed. Whether it be another change of formation, personnel or tactics remains to be seen.

But it will be difference between a potentially successful season or another underwhelming mid-table finish in non-league football.

On the other hand, it's important not to overreact to one result or set-back, no matter how frustratingly familiar it seems.

Things have been on an upward trend since Challinor took charge and set-backs were always going to happen.

It’s how the manager and his players respond to the set-backs that will define things.