Written by Luke Marsh
Hartlepool United are once against facing the potential of another relegation fight in League 2. A lack of consistency is severely costing the Pools and fans are starting to begin to worry where the club is heading. Having conceded a late winner against Doncaster at the weekend, Pools now find themselves in 18th place, only two points above the relegation zone. Last weekends result against Doncaster just about summed up Hartlepool’s season so far, many fans would argue. Having going one down, Pools responded well and starting to pile the pressure on Donny. Having started with a 4-5-1 formation with Padraig Amond leading the line, Hignett switched things around upon conceding. Lewis Alessandra and Nicky Deverdics were now supporting Amond and could begin to provide crosses and link up play which appeared to be none existent before Pools conceded. Pools were very good value for money and began to settle into the game, which is a serious shame considering it took Craig Hignett to realise this only after going 1-0. Upon playing well to a very good and inform Doncaster side, who sit third in the table, Lewis Hawkins played a wonderful ball into the box, which fell to Amond, who was then fouled. Penalty to Pools, chance to Pools.
Amond, who signed from Grimsby in the summer and was arguably one of the signings of the summer in League 2, bagged it from the spot and Pools find themselves in a very good position, playing some good football and level with Donny. So far so good. As the game progressed, chances were galore for both sides and Pools were playing some good stuff, particularly down the left hand side, Jake Carroll and Deverdics (who is in for injured Nathan Thomas) linking up well and were causing Donny some serious problems.
As the game began to close, the game paused for a moment for an injury. Hignett saw this as an opportunity to gather the lads and have stern words. As the game progressed, it was clear that changes had been made, Amond had switched positions with Alessandra and was now playing on the wing, with Alessandra playing down the middle, which completely seemed unnecessary as Alessandra’s main position was as a winger and offered the biggest threat pace wise in the team, and strengths couldn’t be utilised playing as a striker.
About 15 minutes later, Craig Hignett did what he has been doing all season, he crumbled under pressure and didn’t have confidence in his back four. With about 10 minutes left on the clock, Donny started to batter Pools, and Rob Jones was brought on for Deverdics which lead to pools playing a 5-3-2 formation with Amond and Alessandra up top. A very negative approach to an already ill-confident side. This had an effect on the players, Pools’ passing was all over the place and resorted to playing hoof ball which they have seemed to do all season under Higgy. A very sloppy error from Hawkins gave the ball to Doncaster and they proceeded to score a very easy second goal in 92nd minute. Very frustrating, and a long drive home for Pools fans.
This negative approach has only recently came under question at Pools. At home, Craig Hignett only opts to play one upfront all of the time, which explains why they have only won once at home all season, against Cheltenham, winning 2-0. Pools have given away so many leading positions this season and it tally’s up to now 15 points(5 wins) which would see Pools in the top three. A lot of Pools fans, however are not naive in the fact that Higgy is still a young manager, and has a lot to learn in the game, and in spells, has the Monkey Hanger’s playing some wonderful football. It just seems unnecessary to bring two strikers on loan from Middlesbrough to them sit them on the bench, and then play Amond upfront on his own, and allow him to get bullied week in week out. Our captain, Billy Paynter is even another option he could throw on, but every time he is introduced, the game is either all but over or not important. I personally am getting really bored of watching Pools pass the ball backwards, and get caught in our own half with no ideas or plan b, you cannot fault the players passion at times but it just seems as though there is a real negative approach and feeling around the club at the moment, which has also been sprung from our chairman, Gary Coxall. Our support is terrific, and cannot be faulted considering the area we are in, surrounded by Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough. But week in week out, bad result after bad result, our chairman comes out on Twitter and spouts a lot of motivational quotes, and offers nothing but courageous word and fight. Actions speak louder than words, Gary. We are really struggling and need to find a spark from somewhere before it’s too late. I personally just feel as if we are ‘swirling down the toilet’ if I may say, and feel as though relegation is a massive possibility if Hignett doesn’t learn his lessons. For our chairman to come out and praise Higgy and say that he is the right man this early is very brave, and you may argue that it’s a good thing to do, but it could also lead to settlement and allow Higgy to air his foot off the gas.
Pools seem to score a lot of goals, but there the problem lies, we always concede and make stupid mistakes. CAN WE PLEASE CUT IT OUT?! It is however still only early days, but myself I am starting to worry about the rest of the season. I hope I’m wrong and we make a play-off push, because the league is really close this year, we are sat in 18th and are only five points off the play-offs!! (Crazy, right?) We also have the leading assist’s player(silver lining) in Lewis Alessandra. So not all is bad, if we spring a couple of results together, I hope it’s enough to bring the feel good factor back to The Vic.
Harltepool fans, will things come good? What’s going wrong at the moment? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Yaffa Phillips