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Match Report: Brentford 2 Hartlepool United 2
LUCK is a commodity that has been out of reach for Hartlepool United this season; on Saturday they finally got their share of it.
And while on endless occasions this season they haven’t deserved much of it, while being unfortunate on other occasions, no-one could argue it wasn’t merited this time.
Two own goals – now Pools’ joint top scorer – earned a point at Brentford.
Go back to last December and Micky Barron led Pools out at Griffin Park in caretaker command.
They played well that day, improved on their last showing, but lost to a controversial late penalty.
This time around they again played better than before and the big difference was Barron celebrating a lastgasp goal.
Maybe, following the low point and pure dejection which followed last Tuesday’s loss at Bury and led to Neale Cooper walking away from the club, this is a starting point to something better.
Barron played under Cooper as captain for two seasons and was the former manager’s right-hand man during his second spell.
It’s a friendship that goes beyond a working relationship and the caretaker boss, who wondered what his fate would be last week following Cooper’s departure, admitted he has been affected by events.
“It’s been the toughest week of my football career to be honest,’’ he revealed after the 13th managerial change of his time at Victoria Park since signing as a player in 1996.
“Tuesday night, I was so low and then had to speak to the chairman and didn’t know what was happening.
“I’m close to Neale and I’ve read some horrible stuff about this, that and the other, but me and Neale are close and he text me before the game. We all know that and the players are determined to get out of the situation we are in.
“The players have been angry about it, but hopefully this is a start of moving up the table and putting in some good performances.
“I felt we played well here last year and got beat 2-1 and I felt we played better this time and thought we were going to lose 2-1 again.’’ Last time around and after his first managerial introduction, he admitted to not enjoying his first day in charge.
It was a different story this time around.
“It’s a tough position to be in,’’ he confessed. “I had a lot of encouragement from a lot of people in football. People want you to do well and maybe that includes people who you wouldn’t expect or would normally talk to you.
“But I’ve enjoyed it more this time and that’s because I’ve done it before and at times it’s worrying and stressful, but when you see them get the ball down and pass it like they did it’s so pleasing.
“There’s a resolve within the dressing room to get out of it and there always has been.
This hasn’t been a lightbulb moment to suddenly decide to get out of it. For whatever reason there’s games when we haven’t got a result.
“What I’ve said to the players is that we aren’t going to get out of it straight away and in a game or two. It might take a run of games to get there.’’ For how many games Barron stays in charge remains to be seen. One bookmaker suspended betting over the weekend on the manager’s market after taking a few bets on Brian Laws.
But don’t read anything into that. Only one person knows in his own mind what will come – chairman Ken Hodcroft – and he doesn’t let anything slip out.
And while Barron only had two training sessions with his players before this game, his ideas were implemented as Pools adopted a different game plan.
The option of hitting striker Steve Howard early is and was still there, but Pools introduced a more measured approach, looking to keep the ball and do something positive with it rather than get rid.
For those who have sniped of Barron being a long-ball merchant, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Pools, lining up 4-5-1, were positive in possession. And they were rewarded for their patience as the late leveller came from a corner earned after a decent spell of passing the ball around the park into feet.
When Pools went to Colchester last month the hosts had a new boss and his game plan was to be brave in possession, pass the opposition to death and keep the ball.
While Barron rightly pointed out that Joe Dunne was able to sign two loanees from Arsenal to enforce his ideas, Pools did it their own way at the weekend.
“We all sat down and wanted to do something different - what we were doing it wasn’t working at times,’’ he reflected.
“We looked at the players and asked what the best way was to play and this season we haven’t had possession of the ball for long enough.
“Keep the ball and you are more likely to score.
“They kept on trying to play, kept on passing the ball and wanting the ball. I wanted them to create chances rather than just getting the ball up to Stevie [Howard] and we wanted runners in and around him rather than hoping he wins and flicks on very ball.
“It’s the way I want to play.
We lost the ball for their goals, but that’s my responsibility because I want them to be in possession and want the ball.’’ Centre-halves Harlee Dean and Tony Craig turned the ball past their own goalkeeper for Pools’ goals – the first time Pools have had two own goals to their name in a game (although twice they have scored two OGs in a game themselves).
Sweeney latched onto an attractive and deft Simon Walton pass during one of his many runs into the area. He knocked the ball across goal and Dean diverted in.
They should have scored long before Craig met Evan Horwood’s high corner with a looping header with two minutes to go.
Ryan Noble, so impressive in the closing stages at Bury, carried on his form and could have gone home with four goals.
In the end, Pools left Griffin Park in a positive frame of mind. Too often this season that’s not the been the case.