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Oldham 3 Hartlepool United 0
Oldham Athletic 3 Hartlepool United 0 START planning for League Two, get the road maps out for Accrington, Barnet and Morecambe and forget trips to the likes of Southampton, Norwich and Leeds United as they have enjoyed in recent years.
Any hopes Hartlepool United had of staying in League One were extinguished last night as they rolled over to a pitiful defeat at Oldham.
They aren’t down mathematically yet, but they are as good as following five games without a win, five games without a goal.
After a fabulous February, it’s a miserable March for John Hughes and co. The manager described this game as “men against boys” and it was.
A couple of early openings were blocked, then Pools crumbled against a bright and lively home side, who were out to impress a new manager.
When they conceded two first-half goals, it was game over in a performance more akin to what they served up pre-Christmas.
The Latics’ Dean Bouzanis joins the list of goalkeepers not to be worked or tested.
Bury’s win over Stevenage dumped Pools second bottom, and leaves them entrenched seven points from safety with a far worse goal difference than those they have to try and catch.
“We didn’t do enough, we were second best all over the park, we didn’t pass it well,’’ admitted Hughes. “We didn’t win our tackles and headers. We didn’t have any leaders of men. I can only be honest in my assessment.
“Lately we have given ourselves a chance, this was our cup final. I wouldn’t like to think we would perform in a cup final like this.
“Show character, wear your heart on your sleeve, show spirit, compete, snarl and scratch.
“Then the rest takes care of itself. Then you get on top and start playing football.
“Not tonight, we were so far off the game, it’s bitterly disappointing.’’ Hughes will instigate a big clearout in the summer at Victoria Park and he tellingly admitted: “You lean about your players all the time. Go where it hurts mentally that they haven’t been before – this was transparent.
“People who don’t do that, you can see through them.
“If we can come here, put a show on and give ourselves a chance…. Now we need a miracle.’’ Nathan Luscombe, in for the injured Ritchie Humphreys, had an early goalbound shot denied. It was about the sum of his contribution all night.
From the corner, Peter Hartley’s goalbound header was kicked off the line. It was about the sum of Pools’ threat on goal all night.
From then until half-time, only Pools’ goalkeeper Scott Flinders kept the score down.
A shot from James Wesolowski went through a crowd of legs and Flinders got down low to save.
Then Jose Baxter worked across the edge of the penalty area and his shot was kept out by the alert goalkeeper.
But he was beaten on 18 minutes and, for all their faults on the night, it was a goal that could not really be kept out.
Wesolowski whipped over a teasing cross and Robbie Simpson ran onto it to power a header in from six yards.
Pools instantly crumbled mentally, becoming unable to pass the ball simply or string any possession together.
Simon Walton, who has been astute in possession of late, gave the ball straight to Lee Croft, he fed Baxter and only the alert nature of Flinders, off his line quickly, denied the forward.
It was two on 28 minutes. A corner was returned and when the ball was crossed, Jean-Yves M’voto was left unmarked to head in.
How a six foot four inch centre half can be left unmarked so close to goal is anyone’s guess.
Oldham chased and closed down Pools, who couldn’t cope with it.
Luscombe’s pass put Walton under pressure, he laid it off to Hartley and the skipper couldn’t get it back to Flinders quick enough. It was a horrible passage of play and the goalkeeper’s clearance cannoned off the back of Baxter. The ultimate embarrassment was saved as the ball bounced wide.
After Luke James replaced Luscombe, Pools offered a bit more going forward, but without threatening.
By then it was three. Pools failed to close down on the edge of their area, Simpson set up Baxter and he rifled a shot with power and pace into the bottom corner.
Seven games to go and now it’s about restoring some of the pride and spirit they failed to show last night. Hughes will demand it.
More Hartlepool Utd News
- Collett heads to York and Pools get Provett
- Pools will never be far from Hignett's mind
- Pools will never be far from Hignett's mind
- Hodcroft fully committed to Pools
- Cooper out to find the new Joe Allon at Victoria Park
- Hignett relishing chance to step up at Pools
- Why the time is right for Colin Cooper to step up
- Higgy in the middle of Cooper's Pools
- New Pools boss excited to get Victoria Park buzzing again
- Pools appoint Cooper and Hignett
HARTLEPOOL UNITED: FLINDERS 8; Austin 4, Collins 4, Hartley 4, Horwood 5; Walton 4; Luscombe 3(James 53, 6), Sweeney 4; Poole 5 (Monkhouse 28, 4); Franks 6, Howard 5. Subs (not used): Rutherford, Holden, Hawkins, McHugh (gk), Wyke.
MAN OF THE MATCH KOREY Smith – ran the show from midfield.