Hartlepool United's 4-1 defeat at Harrogate Town analysed – what have we learned as Pools suffer their heaviest defeat of National League season

Hartlepool United must have thought things couldn’t get worse than their previous visit to Harrogate Town – how wrong they were.

Friday, 27th December 2019, 11:45 am
Ryan Donaldson of Hartlepool United reacts after missing a chance during the Vanarama National League match between Harrogate Town and Hartlepool United at Wetherby Road, Harrogate on Thursday 26th December 2019. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)
Ryan Donaldson of Hartlepool United reacts after missing a chance during the Vanarama National League match between Harrogate Town and Hartlepool United at Wetherby Road, Harrogate on Thursday 26th December 2019. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

Less than two weeks after surrendering a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 in the final 13-minutes against Town in the FA Trophy, Pools were soundly beaten 4-1 by the National League play-off challengers.

After a goalless first half, goals from Lloyd Kerry, Jack Muldoon and Josh Falkingham put the home side well in control going into the final 20-minutes of the game.

Substitute Nicke Kabamba pulled a goal back and made the scoreline look more respectable for Pools before Muldoon burst away in stoppage time to lob Ben Killip and confirm the embarrassment for Dave Challinor’s side.

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Pools were backed by an impressive 930 strong away contingent for the Boxing Day bout, their largest away following in the National League so far this season.

The match got off to a fairly hectic start with Jon Stead and Ryan Donaldson coming close at either end inside the opening five minutes.

The intensity remained for much of the opening exchanges but the play quickly became more scrappy and the chances dried up.

Gary Liddle and Micheal Raynes had enjoyed a comfortable afternoon last time out against Dagenham but they were in for a far more difficult outing this time out despite the first half ending goalless.

But Harrogate came out on the front foot in the second half and punished the mistakes made by Pools as Kerry’s close range finish gave the home side the lead before Raynes bundled down Stead in the area.

That allowed Muldoon to convert from the spot to make it 2-0 within 15-minutes of the restart after half-time.

And that proved to be decisive as Pools couldn’t find a way back into the game after that as Harrogate ran out as deserved winners.

Was it down to the pitch? Was it down to Pools not taking their chances? No. Pools were simply second best in all areas and couldn’t deal with the pace and movement in which Harrogate attacked.

The only positive could be that it’s a quick turnaround before they face league leaders Barrow tomorrow. What could possibly go wrong!