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Pools dogged by continuing home failings
Match Analysis: Hartlepool United 1 Wycombe Wanderers 2
TWO long years ago, Hartlepool United beat Bury 3-0 at Victoria Park. Mick Wadsworth’s team was enjoying a club record nine-game unbeaten start to the season.
Nobby Solano scored, even Colin Nish got two, thing really were that good. Season ticket sales neared 6,000. Victoria Park was a happy place.
And, since then, it’s all gone wrong.
Losing to Wycombe at home on Saturday was Pools’ 25th defeat at Victoria Park since seeing off Bury on September 17, 2011.
In that time they have won just nine times, drew 13 and lost 25, failing to score in 26 of those games.
Colin Cooper is the fourth manager to try and turn it around. It was five steps forwards last Tuesday as they beat Bradford 5-0 in the JPT, but it was two back in losing to Wycombe.
Six games in League Two and all Pools have is one goal and two points, garnered from two uninspiring goalless away draws.
Three home defeats, while there’s a case for avoiding a loss in all three games, isn’t good enough.
There’s only one team below Pools in the table and Accrington Stanley visit Victoria Park on Saturday.
Cooper’s post-game assessment could have stopped after his first sentence: “First goal was vital. It proves the case with us.’’
It’s a familiar script.
Concede first and Pools don’t have the belief or nous to win the game. Score first – and last Tuesday showed it’s merits – and they can finish teams off.
But, for their effort and chances in the first-half, they didn’t find a breakthrough, although Christian Burgess’ shot appeared to clear the line and was cleared without a first goal being awarded.
As soon as the Chairboys scored, Pools deflated. Players heads went down, they didn’t want the ball and they couldn’t raise their game, at least not until the last ten minutes when they had a bit of a go and got one back in injury time.
But even then, after James Poole scored, they lost any momentum by allowing the visitors to win a soft free-kick and kill the game dead.
After a first-half in which Pools were on top, they didn’t get started in the second period.
The introduction of visiting substitute Max Kretschmar changed the game. He fired a dangerous corner over before scoring on 49 minutes, when he cracked a low shot past Scott Flinders from 20 yards.
His second was neatly finished on 69 minutes, coming after Pools lost possession and were wide open to allow a swift counter-attack.
“I wanted the tempo high – but I felt it was flat, the team, the ground, the atmosphere,’’ reflected Cooper.
“And you are trying to think of what we can do to spark it, and by then a punt upfield, knock down, shot and it goes in.
“Not spectacular, but great from their point of view. Second goal, one bad pass, a bad decision to lunge at the ball and they didn’t do enough to win it, we helped them.
“Since the first game of the season we haven’t let teams score goals easily, but this time we got picked off.’’
Pools never got going in the second-half, they didn’t pass the pass with much purpose and really threaten until they went two-down.
Too many players who performed well on Tuesday failed to play anywhere near the same level.
Pools lacked authority in midfield and it says a lot when they are affected by an injury to a 17-year-old who only made his debut last month.
When Bradley Walker was forced off with an ankle injury seven minutes in and Simon Walton came on. As good as he was at York and against Southend, he was bad at Torquay and against Wycombe.
If Walker is out for any length of time and with Antony Sweeney still absent, Cooper will be tempted to put Jack Baldwin in midfield at the weekend, although he will be loathe to split up his partnership at the back with Burgess.
Cooper added: “We have been down that scenario of going one-down. We still have to do the right things, start at a high tempo again and we didn’t do that.
“Second goal goes in and it’s here we go again.
“But then we increase the tempo, start putting chances in. After one goal it didn’t happen, after two goals you are up against it with 20 minutes to go but at least we had a go.
Simon Walton and Wycombe's Billy Knott, on loan from Sunderland, in mid-air action
“We looked a bit anxious after the first goal. Martin, the kit man, makes some notes for me during the game and I said to him that they had two corners in the first four minutes and the tempo was against us.
“Fair play to them for bringing a sub on who scores two goals, brilliant for him, so disappointing for me.’’
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