ON THURSDAY, as the snow fell on Hartlepool United’s training ground in Durham, the players stood around and joked as their team-mates slipped and slided their way out of the car park.

Some 48 hours later and they all fell flat on their faces at Victoria Park. It was no laughing matter.

Another home game, another defeat. More despair, belief and support eroded yet further. Winter has set in along Clarence Road.

It’s been a bleak 2017 for Pools. They started it by staving off administration off the pitch and are ending it plumbing depths on it.

They have played a lot worse than this and won games. They should never have lost on Saturday. That they did was down to a two big factors: a lack of substitutions to freshen the team up and a lack of nous in defence.

There hasn’t been much fun at Victoria Park for years now. Since Pools introduced their innovative £100 season ticket offer in 2011, they have lost more games at home than they have won.

This season, non-league football and all that, wasn’t supposed to carry on the trend.

Instead, they have lost to Dover, AFC Fylde, Eastleigh, Aldershot and now Macclesfield.

How much more can supporters take? Frustration was the word on Craig Harrison’s lips as he spoke to the waiting press after 7pm on Saturday evening. It was the longest any manager has waited to conduct his regular post-match interviews.

In between the final whistle and talking to the press, Harrison had conducted a thorough post-mortem into the capitulation.

The players were locked it the dressing rooms until 6.15, as they looked back at footage of the goals conceded. You can train a monkey to do tricks, in Hartlepool they even elect them as Mayor, but it seems you can’t train a centre-half to defend.

Harrison, his coaches and players, watched the goals back. Fingers were pointed, questions were asked.

“Decision making has to be better at key moments,’’ reflected the manager. “We have been through it in the dressing room, people picked out, named and told in front of everyone – which is for the dressing room to manage.

“It’s not about a reaction from the players tonight and seeing a reaction, it’s about seeing it in black and white and the individuals involved do everything in their power not to do it again.

“Learn more, learn in training. The first thing this week is talk to me, put me in that scenario again – repetition, repetition, repetition, it’s not about how they feel right now.

“Some have not done their jobs out there, we cannot lie. Stats are that only 30 per cent of the time you recollect accurately, but looking at footage then you can tell people and put the blame at people’s doors.’’

What goes on in the dressing room stays in the dressing room, but there’s little doubt that Pools’ two centre-halves were on the receiving end of the barbs.

Scott Harrison and Louis Laing were rarely troubled for 85 minutes. They had plenty of the ball as they were allowed possession from the back. They tried to play football and build from the back, but often distribution was a let-down.

For the goals conceded the pair were a shambles. Pools’ best pairing in the middle of defence has been Michael Ledger and Keith Watson.

Scott Harrison and Laing started the season making plenty of costly ricks. Four months down the line and nothing has changed.

It may be a few weeks yet if and when Watson is fit. The sooner the better. Ledger, on loan from Sunderland, has to start at Dover on Saturday.

Macclesfield played a long ball forward, Scott Harrison and Laing made an attempt to play Tyrone Marsh offside.

The Arsenal back four of the George Graham era they were not.

Marsh, who offered nothing in the game until this point, nipped ahead of Harrison and Nicky Deverdics showed he is a forward-thinking player filling in at left-back as he was caught out when Elliiott Durrell raced into space behind him.

The substitute crossed, Ryan Lloyd ran onto it ahead of Carl Magnay and netted. Even a draw would have been a travesty.

Instead, Pools crumbled. Scott Harrison lost his position, lost his man and lost his sense as he needlessly fouled Marsh. The free-kick was pumped into the area, Lewis Hawkins headed onwards and upwards, a free header knocked the ball into the danger zone.

Lloyd headed against the bar, and Keith Lowe was free – left alone as Laing stood and watched – to nod into an empty net.

Lowe caused similar pain for Pools in 2014, scoring two headers at the Rink End in the space of five minutes to secure a victory for York. Three years down the line and, at Victoria Park, nothing has changed.

Until the goals, Macclesfield, with the best away record in the division, had offered little.

Visiting boss John Askey made a couple of changes to give his side some forward momentum. The changes paid off.

As Pools held their one goal lead, they started to sit deeper and invite pressure. Carl Magnay was a welcome surprise to the starting XI on his return from injury, but would it have been a smart move to replace him with 20 minutes to go?

Likewise, Jake Cassidy was second best up front to centre-half Lowe and Jack Munns flagged towards the end on a rare start.

After the substitutes spent an age running up and down the touchline, Pools didn’t make a change until they conceded.

After being the better team for a long time, Pools didn’t find a second goal which would have finished Macclesfield off. Shots came in from distance, but penalty area chances were scarce.

“At half-time we were one-up, we were the better team,’’ said the manager. “I felt first 20 of the second half we came out firing, we could have made the keeper work more from great positions – driving from deep, but without pulling the trigger.

“We have had plenty of opportunities in the last third, but we didn’t pull the trigger in the end. Has there been as many games here when we have worked the keeper as much as that?’’

Pools are 13th in the table. They have eight wins, seven draws, eight defeats, scoring 24 and conceding 24. They are an average team in a poor division.

They talk of the play-offs and promotion and are only five points off the play-off zone.

But they are always outside the play-off zone, never capable of getting in there because of stupid outcomes like on Saturday.