The stats behind Hartlepool United's contrasting home and away form in the National League
Hartlepool United’s last eight home and away games provide one of the starkest contrasts in form that you are likely to see from a side gunning for promotion.
Pools boast the best home record in the National League having won each of their last eight matches at Victoria Park, the club’s longest winning run on home soil in 14 years.
Meanwhile on the road, the side have won just one of their last eight league matches and sit 15th in the National League’s away table.
The contrast balances out to leave Dave Challinor’s side sitting third in the overall league standings – the only table that matters.
But with crowds not a factor this season, why are we seeing such a significant disparity between Hartlepool’s home and away form?
The answer is unclear, but here’s what the stats show…
As cliched as it is, goals win games.
Pools have netted an impressive 18 goals at Victoria Park in their last eight matches and conceded just three. It’s a winning formula which has yielded a 100% record at The Vic over the past three months.
Yet on the road, the side have scored just three times in eight matches, conceding nine. Simply put, Pools haven’t been scoring enough away from home and their results have consequently suffered.
But can we find an explanation as to why that is by taking a closer look at the stats?
Pools are a side who like to control matches with the majority of possession and plenty of crosses into the box.
Regardless of whether they are home or away, Hartlepool have been able to maintain those levels fairly consistently.
Over the last eight games respectively, Pools have averaged 55.25% possession at home and 52.125% possession away.
Yet every time they’ve kept 60% possession or more away from home (Wrexham, Weymouth and Woking), they’ve failed to score and every time they’ve scored away from home, they’ve kept 50% possession or under (Halifax, Eastleigh, Notts County).
Pools’ only win away from home in the last three months came at Notts County, where they kept just 32% possession.
When Hartlepool are allowed to play in front of teams with the ball, they have found it difficult to break them down.
It’s when they are able to get in behind teams with pace where they are most effective, and sometimes that means letting the opponents have the ball.
At home, Pools have only kept above 60% possession on one occasion during their eight game winning streak and that was against nine man Stockport County, where they unsurprisingly saw 70% of the ball in a 4-0 win.
Challinor’s side can’t help the way teams set up against them, but perhaps there is such a thing as too much possession.
Creating chances has never been an issue for Pools this season.
At Victoria Park, they’ve managed an impressive 103 shots in their last eight matches, 40 of which have been on target.
But even away from home, they have been able to create a solid number of chances with 84 shots and 27 on target in eight games.
Whether it’s home or away, Hartlepool often out create their opponents in terms of shots on goal. Yet Pools have seen more shots against them at Victoria Park than they have on the road.
Goalkeeper Ben Killip has faced 69 shots at The Vic, 20 of which have been on target compared to 62 on the road with 23 on target.
When looking at the shots for both Hartlepool and their opponents, there is no significant difference that would suggest why we’re seeing such a contrast in form home and away.
As Challinor often alludes to, his side’s performance levels have remained fairly consistent home and away in recent months and the stats go some way to backing that up.
So why do Pools look unbeatable at home yet struggle so much on the road when it comes to results?
It is all well and good creating chances, but you’ve got to put them away.
At home, Pools’ have a shot conversion rate of 17.48% which raises to 45% for efforts on target. Almost half of the side’s shots on target find the net at Victoria Park.
Yet away from home, it is a completely different story.
Pools’ conversion rate over the last eight away matches is a lowly 3.57% which raises to 11.1% for shots on target.
They may be creating chances but their failure to put them away is proving costly.
The form of top scorer Luke Armstrong also reflects the side’s form. The 24-year-old has scored eight goals in eight wins at The Vic since joining yet has just one in seven matches away from home.
This is where Pools need more players to contribute goals on a regular basis.
Without having to look at the stats, it’s clear that Pools are failing to take their chances away from home but a closer inspection proves just how significant the issue is.
As Challinor is often quick to remind us, you can shape stats in any way you like – but there is really no arguing with these.
Pools aren’t taking their chances away from home and you don’t need a 1,000 word article to explain that to you.
But what is interesting is that there is no huge difference in what Pools are doing at home or away in terms of possession and chances created to explain why the end results have been so different.
It can’t just be a coincidence, but it’s hard to say what needs to change. You could argue a formation shift could help Pools rediscover their eye for goal but there’s really no evidence to back that up – it’s just another roll of the dice.
Pools will be looking for answers away at league leaders Torquay United this weekend, we can only hope they find them.