Yeovil Town 2-2 Hartlepool United analysis – a bizarre battle sees another two points dropped for Dave Challinor

A draw away to Yeovil Town is never a bad point, but for Hartlepool United it will feel like two dropped once again.

Sunday, 19th January 2020, 4:45 pm
Aidan Keena of Hartlepool United during the Vanarama National League match between Yeovil Town and Hartlepool United at Huish Park, Yeovil on Saturday 18th January 2020. (Credit: Paul Paxford | MI News & Sport)

Pools made the 330-mile trip down to Huish Park for the third time in little over three months to face a Glovers side flying high in the National League table.

Dave Challinor’s side could take confidence in the fact they had twice got the better of Darren Sarll’s men this season having beaten them 2-1 at Victoria Park back in October and 4-1 in the FA Cup first round in Somerset a month later.

The cup victory was Challinor’s first game in charge of Pools and it was not one without controversy as the initially scheduled tie was called off at the 11th hour due to a waterlogged pitch.

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The lack of effort to get the game on despite the Hartlepool players, staff and fans having already made the journey didn’t sit right as they were forced to make the same journey again just three days later on a Tuesday night.

Fortunately Pools got their revenge as goals from Luke James, Gavan Holohan, Nicke Kabamba and Gime Toure saw them come from behind to secure a convincing cup win.

Going into Saturday’s game, Hartlepool had just one of their goalscorers from the previous visit available as Luke James is set to miss the majority of the season due to a groin injury and Gime Toure served the final game of his suspension.

Something that came as a surprise going into the game was the swift sale of Nicke Kabamba to Kilmarnock, which was announced on Friday evening.

Mark Shelton of Hartlepool United during the Vanarama National League match between Yeovil Town and Hartlepool United at Huish Park, Yeovil on Saturday 18th January 2020. (Credit: Paul Paxford | MI News & Sport)

This left the side slightly short up front with only new signing Aidan Keena and returning loan forward Niko Muir available.

Much like Pools’ ill-fated visit to Huish Park back in November, the day was damp but sunny with no further rain forecast. Fortunately this time the game would go ahead has planned.

But that didn’t mean the visitors weren’t without their fair share of trouble prior to kick-off.

They arrived to a dressing room without any form of power supply as they had to use one of their extension cables in order to manage.

Ryan Donaldson of Hartlepool United shoots at goal during the Vanarama National League match between Yeovil Town and Hartlepool United at Huish Park, Yeovil on Saturday 18th January 2020. (Credit: Paul Paxford | MI News & Sport)

However, after checking out the surface at Huish Park, the Pools players returned to the dressing room with no extension cable in sight as it had allegedly been confiscated and locked away.

It seems that Yeovil certainly like to make things difficult for Hartlepool, no matter how trivial.

On the pitch, the Glovers would make things difficult as well.

A long ball forward seeing Rhys Murphy got the better of Peter Kioso down Yeovil’s left side which allowed the Yeovil striker to roll the ball across the face of goal for Matt Worthington to stroke into an effectively empty net to give the home side the lead.

Hartlepool United manager Dave Challinor congratulates Peter Kioso of Hartlepool United at the final whistle during the Vanarama National League match between Yeovil Town and Hartlepool United at Huish Park, Yeovil on Saturday 18th January 2020. (Credit: Paul Paxford | MI News & Sport)

But just a few minutes later Pools got themselves level as Kioso made amends for his earlier error with a bullet header from a Ryan Donaldson free-kick to make it 1-1.

Hartlepool’s effectiveness from free-kicks has been scrutinised over the years but they proved to be very effective on this occasion.

From this point the game was very much in the balance yet an uncomfortably toxic atmosphere was starting to develop amongst the home supporters who were growing increasingly agitated with referee Michael Woods.

The level of abuse the officials were getting was bordering on the bizarre. While National League officials can be atrocious (see Hartlepool 0-2 Dover Athletic for example), Woods’ first half officiating by no means merited the reaction it was getting from the Yeovil fans.

Arguably his worst first half decision came inside the opening minutes as Gavan Holohan’s touch seemed to deflect off a Yeovil body and out for a corner yet the referee awarded a goal kick.

Kioso was the subject to much of the abuse after he was chopped down by Lee Collins in a dangerous area. Collins was booked as a result and despite nothing coming from the free-kick, Kioso was booed by the home fans for the remainder of the game.

Some would argue this is what football is all about but there’s a difference between banter or passion and putting far too much unwarranted energy into abusing the opposition and officials.

If as much energy was put into actually cheering the side on, it would have made for an electric atmosphere yet instead it bordered on toxic from a very early stage.

It was almost as if it were a local derby. Though with the length and width of England separating the sides, that’s far from the case!

Pools fans are hardly innocent of this themselves as Victoria Park can quickly become toxic if the situation presents itself. But, for the most part, even Poolies could resist going apoplectic when a throw-in doesn’t go their way.

But Yeovil soon had something to actually cheer about moments before half-time as Pools failed to deal with a floating ball into the box as Charlie Lee prodded home following a goal line scramble.

Now the home side had the lead, most would have expected things to calm down slightly going into the second half as Pools tried to find a way back into the game.

A strong start to the second 45 by Challinor’s side saw Gavan Holohan see a close range effort cleared off the line before the referee made his first contentious call of the afternoon against Yeovil.

And you can picture the reaction it got.

Glovers top scorer Murphy was shown a straight red card for a coming together with Pools defender Myles Anderson on the halfway line. There didn’t appear to be much in it at first glance though replays suggested Murphy hit out as the pair competed to win a loose ball.

Yeovil still had the goal advantage but with the numerical upper-hand, Pools had the momentum.

They did start to apply the pressure without creating an awful lot of chances to test Ted Cann in the Yeovil goal. Keena making his Pools debut didn’t have too many chances to impress as he lacked any real service despite showing good energy and endeavour to get into the right areas.

But with just under 20-minutes to go, a Gus Mafuta header from a deep Nicky Featherstone cross deservedly levelled things up for the visitors.

It was one way traffic after that as Hartlepool pushed for a winner. Mark Kitching came close in stoppage time but a third goal ultimately never came as they had to settle for their fifth 2-2 draw in 16 matches under Challinor.

Draws away to Dover and Yeovil are decent results on paper, but the circumstances behind those draws are the most frustrating thing. It should be six points but instead it’s two.

And it’s with that, another opportunity to kick-on and push up the table goes begging.