Joe Ramage: Hartlepool United's defeat to Swindon Town leaves a lot to be desired as end of season struggles continue for Graeme Lee's side

A few days removed from Hartlepool United’s sobering defeat against Swindon Town and there remains more than a tinge of frustration.

By Joe Ramage
Thursday, 28th April 2022, 1:00 pm

A week ago I wrote how there is context to be considered before throwing any toys out of any prams when it comes to Pools’ ‘end of season syndrome.’

Within that time there has been more talk of being on beaches than a script from Baywatch as Pools’ poor form continues.

One win in 10, no home win in seven and just two points from the last possible 21 available are the not so glamorous stats we are dealing with.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Hartlepool United were comfortably beaten by Swindon Town last time out at the Suit Direct Stadium. (Credit: Michael Driver | MI News)

And yet through all of that, I agreed with both Graeme Lee and Michael Nelson in their defence of the players against the suggestion they are merely ‘going through the motions.’

Whether people dismiss last season’s efforts or not, the quick turnaround simply has to have had an impact on the players at various stages this season - none more so than over the last six weeks.

To, again, put this into context you only have to think about international players who compete in summer tournaments and their condition when they return to duty at the beginning of a season. It takes its toll.

But what gave me the most cause for insisting the players were not already on their holidays was that we have seen, at the very least, parts of performances to suggest otherwise.

Graeme Lee and Michael Nelson have defended Hartlepool United players recently but the Pools assistant admitted he could not do so after the defeat to Swindon Town. Picture by FRANK REID

Yes, there have been poor displays, but there have also been signs of encouragement.

Pools went to the now League One side, Forest Green Rovers, and were worthy of their point.

In the first half against Port Vale, Pools gave a strong account of themselves against the, then, form side in the division who may also be in League One by the end of next week. The opening 45 minutes against Rochdale were excellent, with the only criticism being Pools were not further in front.

Now of course, each of those games had their negatives, particularly the second half against Rochdale, but those positives were enough for me to dispel the mythology surrounding any on the beach antics.

And yet following Saturday’s defeat to Swindon I feel as though if I look in the mirror there will still be some egg streaming down my face.

The stats don’t lie in that they suggest Pools were outplayed for the most part but it was the first real time we have seen them out-fought in a game.

For me, it was the first time it looked as though players' minds were elsewhere, whether that be on contracts and their future or indeed a much-needed break. Michael Nelson said afterwards he was unable to defend the performance and I agree.

Having said that, these players do still hold credit in the bank and will do so whatever happens in the final two games of the season.

The main aim this season was to stay in the division and they have achieved that comfortably along with the added bonus of two thrilling cup adventures.

But should the games with Scunthorpe United and Colchester United peter out similarly to that of the Swindon defeat, then that credit will continue to drop which would be a shame given what these players have achieved over the last 18 months.