Joe Ramage: Hartlepool United searching for home comforts against AFC Wimbledon after opening day to forget at Walsall

You wait all summer for the new football season to return and then, just like that, you wish you could start again.

By Joe Ramage
Thursday, 4th August 2022, 12:30 pm

Yes, it was an afternoon to forget for Hartlepool United last week as they opened up their new League Two campaign with a crushing defeat at the hands of Walsall.

And despite handing out eight debuts in his starting XI, and another from the bench in the second half, there wasn’t a great deal for new manager Paul Hartley to cling onto from his first taste of management in English football with the Pools boss declaring his shock during his post-match media duties.

Hartley is no stranger to the highs and lows of football having carved out a successful career as a player before going on to achieve big things as a manager in Scotland ahead of his arrival at the Suit Direct Stadium.

Paul Hartley will make his home bow as Hartlepool United manager when AFC Wimbledon visit the Suit Direct Stadium. Picture by FRANK REID

As a player, Hartley lost games for Celtic - where losing on a week-by-week basis is almost unthinkable.

Here with Pools as a manager however, there is a little more leniency and a little more understanding that winning may not happen every week.

With that said however, that does not get away from the eye-opening manner in which Pools succumbed to such a heavy loss at Walsall.

Like Pools, Walsall fielded a number of debutants, seven in total, but Michael Flynn’s side represented a much more coherent outfit at the Bescot Stadium which does open up an avenue for concern.

Hartlepool United welcome AFC Wimbledon for their first home game of the season at the Suit Direct Stadium. (Credit: Will Matthews | MI News)

They say a week is a long time in football and I’m sure for Pools, and Hartley, this one has felt quite lengthy as they analyse what went wrong in the Midlands.

But the positive with this being at the start of the season is that Pools have plenty of time to put things right - 45 games in fact.

Yet despite the season being in its infancy, the weekend’s fixture with AFC Wimbledon does hold some significance for Pools.

Not only is it a chance to right the wrong from last week, but it is a chance to lay down a marker, particularly at the Suit Direct Stadium.

12 months ago when Pools arrived back in the Football League they boasted a remarkable record on home soil, losing just one of their final 15 National League games.

It was a record they continued upon their return to the EFL, winning six of their first seven in the league at the Suit Direct Stadium before things tailed off.

And those home comforts are something which they will need to get back on track with this season if there is to be a successful campaign.

Upon his arrival as manager, Hartley suggested the need to make the Suit Direct Stadium a fortress this season, somewhere visiting teams do not relish coming, and that begins with Wimbledon this weekend.

We all know how vibrant the stadium can be with the supporters in full swing but, surprisingly, they have not seen their team win a league game at home on a Saturday afternoon since October’s come-from-behind success over Harrogate Town.

Of course, while those kinds of stats are down to past regimes, it will be a good time, nevertheless, to get that particular monkey from their back to get the new season off and running.