The four big talking points from Hartlepool United's 1-1 draw at Altrincham – red card, goalkeeping howler, injuries and an influential display
Hartlepool United claimed a 1-1 draw at Altrincham on Tuesday night to go second in the National League table.
Pools were reduced to 10-men early on as Lewis Cass saw red before Rhys Oates’ first away goal of the campaign put the visitors in front.
Here are the four big talking points from the match…
Following Saturday’s crucial win at Torquay United, Pools boss Dave Challinor hinted that some changes may be in order for the quick turnaround of matches.
As it turned out, only one change was made as the influential Jamie Sterry was rested entirely due to a thigh strain with midfielder Tom Crawford coming into the side in his place.
With that saw a change in formation to a 4-3-3 as Lewis Cass moved out to right-back with Gary Liddle and Ryan Johnson at the heart of defence and David Ferguson on the left.
The midfield three saw Crawford alongside Mark Shelton and Nicky Featherstone while in attack, the side kept the same front three that made the difference at Plainmoor with Luke Molyneux on the right, Rhys Oates on the left and Luke Armstrong through the middle.
There was a surprise on the bench as winger Josh MacDonald was named in the Pools matchday squad in the National League for the first time since the opening week of the season, but is still waiting to make his league debut.
He was named as a substitute in the absence of 17-year-old Joe Grey who has suffered a back injury and is set to be out for the next seven to 10 days.
Midfielder Tom White also made the journey once again despite his loan from Blackburn Rovers expiring last week. Challinor is keen to get him tied down for the remainder of the season but is wary of his budget and the registration deadline in two weeks.
Seeing red after a bright start
Pools went into the game full of confidence following Saturday’s win at Torquay and that showed on the pitch at the J. Davidson Stadium as they started the match brightly.
They had a couple of half chances early on before Armstrong had a golden opportunity to put the visitors in front as he turned Oates’ pullback past Tony Thompson in the Altrincham goal but was denied by the right-hand post.
And the fine margins in football came to the fore once again as just moments later, Cass was shown a straight red card for a challenge down the right on Altrincham’s Matty Kosylo.
The incident was quite subdued in reality with no huge uproar or protests from either side as Cass slid in, appeared to slip and catch Kosylo with a high leg.
The Newcastle United loanee admitted he caught the player dangerously, albeit accidentally, as he was shown the first red card of his professional career. He’ll now miss the next three matches.
That prompted a slight change for Pools as Mark Shelton, of all players, went to the right side of defence in Cass’ absence as Pools switched to a 4-4-1 formation.
But the introduction of Timi Odusina at half-time helped restore a bit of normality at the back.
Molyneux picking right up where he left off
After Saturday’s match-winning display at Torquay, Molyneux was Pools’ bright spark from the get-go at Altrincham.
Within the opening moments of the game, he’d already got the better of The Robins’ left-back Regan Ogle and was causing problems.
The 22-year-old was a persistent threat for Pools in the first half despite struggling to get any meaningful shots away.
Even after Cass’ sending off, Molyneux was able to find space and exploit it as he burst into the Altrincham box and pulled the ball back for Oates who couldn’t miss from two yards out to give Hartlepool the lead.
The winger was the talk of the press box in the first half with Altrincham’s media team constantly describing him as Pools’ ‘danger man’ and exclaiming ‘what a player he is’. On his first half display, it was more than justified as every time he got the ball he was positive and tried to make things happen.
Once Altrincham drew level, Molyneux found things more difficult in the second half as Pools were pegged back but he remained an outlet as he did brilliantly to skip away from two Altrincham players before firing into the side netting.
Armstrong leaving the pitch also meant Molyneux was shifted into a central lone striker role which certainly isn’t natural for him but he continued to show endeavour in the face of adversity.
If Pools can keep him fit and playing for the remainder of the season, he’ll be a huge asset in their promotion push.
Drawing a match with 10-men is more than acceptable, but when it comes at the hands of a mistake it’s hard not to be frustrated.
Football often has a strange way of balancing things out and Killip – who was the hero when Pools last faced Altrincham with a stoppage time penalty save – made a costly error this time out as he parried Colclough’s powerful drive into his own net on the stroke of half-time.
It ultimately cost Pools two points and the 25-year-old never really got the chance to make amends in the second half as Altrincham, despite their man advantage, never really tested the goalkeeper.
Mistakes have been few and far between for Killip this season and he’s always shown his ability to bounce back and quickly regain some form between the sticks.
In the circumstances, it’s a solid point for Pools, one which extends their unbeaten run to six and takes them up to second in the National League table with 15 games remaining.