Pools' barren run continues

The Northern Echo: WORKING HARD: Hartlepool striker Steve Howard tries to work his way through the massed ranks of Oldham defenders WORKING HARD: Hartlepool striker Steve Howard tries to work his way through the massed ranks of Oldham defenders

IT'S now 18 games without a win for Hartlepool United.

And, if on Saturday when they were turned over by Coventry, that next victory looked a million miles away, if this performance is anything to go by that run should be over soon.

Hughes, appointed seven days ago, arrived at Pools vowing to make his mark and adapt a new style of play on the team.

Too often this season, a gameplan and structure has been alien to Pools.

Against Oldham they passed the ball around for long periods, building attacks from the back and playing patiently through midfield.

Gone was the long and lazy option of hitting balls from back to front up to Steve Howard to challenge for.

But while the performance might have been easy on the eye, the result certainly wasn't.

Down to ten men after Neil Austin was sent-off on 77 minutes, Pools conceded a 90th minute penalty.

Goalkeeper Scott Flinders kept it out, but Jose Baxter was first to react to his saved effort and knock in a harsh winner.

Pools sit ten points shy of safety in League One and Hughes said: "I'm a believer in making your own luck and it's evident to me that we are due some.

"Tonight we hit the post, had a man sent off and to lose a goal to a handball penalty again - two in two games now - and at that time it doesn't give time you come back.

"We played nice football at times and shot ourselves in the foot with the first goal, but I rake responsibility for that for asking the players to pass the ball.

"On Saturday we went one down and heads went down, tonight it happened and we were still galvanised, and competed. We got an equaliser and then it goes against us.''

Steve Howard hit the woodwork early on when he headed a Ritchie Humphreys cross against the post.

But Oldham took the lead when Pools' desire to pass the ball from the back let them down.

Flinders didn't want to go long, but his shot pass was played straight to the feet of Baxter who rolled into an empty net.

Conceding on Saturday to Coventry and Pools shipped three goals in eight minutes. This time they kept themselves in the game.

They turned the game up in the second-half, with Andy Monkhouse influential.

He replaced Simon Walton in the opening period when the central midfielder was forced off with a hamstring strain.

Monkhouse took Ritchie Humphreys' more advanced role the pair both made their mark throughout.

Howard had a constant battle with Jean Yves-M'voto. The ex-Sunderland defender has had some stinkers at Victoria Park for Oldham and Southend in the past, but was combative last night.

Pools scored their first home goal since against Doncaster in mid-October.

Jon Franks' low drive shot was pushed out by goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis and Antony Sweeney knocked in from close range to make him joint top scorer on two with Franks and own goals.

They didn't quite capitalise on their lift and were down to ten men when Austin was showed a straight red when he lunged in on James Wesolovski. Hughes had no complaints about the decision.

He also didn't dispute the late penalty, awarded when substitute Jack Baldwin handled a cross in the penalty area.

"Jack was unlucky with the penalty, no blame, he will be an absolute star for this club and I put my arm around him,'' said Hughes.

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