FOR weeks, Hartlepool United have been waiting for Keith Watson to return to shore up their defence.

He finally got back into the side yesterday; and it didn’t quite work out as planned.

Watson scored twice himself, but Pools still shipped two preventable goals which were preventable as they drew 2-2 with Gateshead for the second-time in a week.

Twice Watson gave Pools the lead, twice they squandered it with goals conceded from crosses from the flank.

And once again Pools dropped points at Victoria Park. Four wins from 14 games at home is an embarrassment.

It’s only two points from a possible 21 for Craig Harrison now. Ten points short of the play-offs, Pools can start planning for a second season in the National League, finances permitting.

As reality bites, there’s every chance Watson’s loan, which expires at the end of the month, won’t be renewed for financial reasons.

And Harrison is likely to lose at least two more players in the coming days and weeks.

Pools need a buyer; and quick.

They also need to see out games, because each time they went in front yesterday they looked like conceding.

Just seven minutes into Watson’s first start since mid-September and the centre-half was making an impact at the other end.

Nicky Deverdics’ free-kick into the danger area was curled in with intent, Watson on hand to apply the touch.

The Heed’s first chance came when Richard Peniket drove forward from deep and fired into the side netting from an angle.

By the time Paddy McLaughlin’s shot from 20 yards was pushed aside by Scott Loach on the half hour, little had happened.

Pools were playing deeper, with the Heed slack in possession and not getting through the blue and white shirts.

A deep Deverdics corner was met by Watson, but his header was well over the bar.

But the Heed levelled with a goal from nothing.

Pools defended a free-kick, Scott Barrow striking the defensive wall. But, as it too often the case, they didn’t push up from defence with any conviction.

Lewis Hawkins was beaten out wide and when the ball was curled into the area. The cross bounced off by Richard Peniket and into the far side of the net.

Pools responded with a long-range Deverdics free-kick, which keeper Dan Hanford was happy to keep out.

But too often this season when Pools concede they crumble, a lack of mental strength all too obvious within the side.

And they started the second-half second best, inviting further pressure from the visitors.

But from a couple of breakways, spirits lifted.

Hawkins drove from deep, and fed Devante Rodney to his right. He rolled a tasty ball right across the face of goal, but no-one was on hand to convert.

Then it was Jonathan Franks’ turn and his pass wide saw Liam Donnelly’s cross divert wide and again across goal. When Pools throw the ball across goal, no-one reacts. When the opposition do it they invariably score, as the visitors later proved.

Pools were rewarded with a second goal on 65 minutes.

A deep corner landed at Watson’s feet and he smacked in a low, angled drive to give Pools the lead.

Rodney was playing with drive and determination, he was too strong for the visitors. Defender Neil Byrne was later booked for unceremoniously dumping him on the floor.

A thumping drive from McLaughlin beat Loach, and crashed back off the crossbar.

The lead didn’t last much longer. As the Heed adopted a more attacking formation, Luke Hannant got at Deverdics and his low cross was knocked in from close range by Wes York. A cross from wide turned in, it’s happened too many times this season.

And Pools were lucky to avoid defeat when Hannant showed a delicate touch to dink the ball over Loach from the edge of the area, and it bounced against the underside of the bar and out.

Harrison said: “It’s frustrating, we make honest mistakes at times, we all do, but we have given another lead away.

“We concede a soft goal for the first one, it’s unlucky, but we have had crosses in the six-yard box and it’s not worked – too much pace, no bodies in there, final decision is costing us.

“Cross into the area and we don’t get there, they do it once second half and score.

“First one and it’s nothing to do with quality, it’s always harder to defend crossing back over like that. For the second it’s a great ball and good pace and it’s in.

“We have four or five of them and that anticipation, pass appreciation, cross appreciation. The weight of a cross instead of lashing it.’’

He added: “We keep going and getting in with it and it will fall into place sooner than later. We will score more than we did. Positive: We have four goals in two games; negative: We concede four goals in two games.

“We look at the points and we are realistic, but we have to be ambitious and this league changes rapidly, we just need momentum to get back into the shake up. Players coming back fit will be a big plus and we look forward to them coming back.’’