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Walton aiming for repeat with Pools
BLOCKED OUT: Neil Austin tries to find a way round Yeovil goalkepper Marek Stech during a second-half scramble in the visitors’ penalty area
Final Score: Hartlepool 0 Yeovil Town 0
TWELVE months ago Simon Walton was in a situation where relegation appeared a real probability.
Yet the then Plymouth Argyle captain engineered a siege mentality within the camp, turned the messy situation around and successfully beat the drop.
Hartlepool United are six points adrift of the safety line with nine games to go. Tomorrow’s game at Oldham could make or break the final run-in.
And, while Walton may not be skipper at Hartlepool United, there’s no doubting his ever-increasing influence.
As much as Pools have improved in the second half of the season, so too has Walton.
“There’s times we might struggle in the last nine games, but we have to dig in and help each other out as you don’t get anywhere without a team spirit,’’ he reflected.
“We had it last year at Plymouth and the way we went about it was that it was the world against us.
“Everybody was against us, it spurred us on and we got out of it. I see the same now.
“We were seven points short with nine games left and we got out of it – so it can be done.
“I’ve been there before, fingers crossed it happens again.
“I use that situation to try and help this time. It’s deja vu for me.
“In the first half of the season we played horrendously, then picked up, had a little dip again, then we were seven points short, clawed it back, won four or five on the bounce and stayed up with two games left.
“The spirit and willingness to help each other out is the same here, we can give ourselves a chance. Let’s put the first half of the season to the memory bank and make sure we all remember the second part.’’ That second part has brought just one defeat in ten, three reverses in the last 14 games.
But 0-0 draws at home don’t keep teams up and, after two in the last week at Victoria Park, some momentum has been lost.
There’s been three goalless home games in the last five, leading to six dropped points and this morning that’s the difference between being in the bottom four and on the brink of being out of it.
Pools were never in control of this one like they were in the other blanks, but they still had the best chance to win it late on.
It was the sort of chance which he has gobbled up plenty of times over the years. But, a bit raw from his spell on the sidelines with a knee injury, he lacked the belief to open his body up and finish across the keeper.
Instead a prod to the near post was too comfortable for Marek Stech to push away.
Neither side was outstanding, with Pools losing their way in the second half. They changed shape to a more open 4-4-2 from the protective 4-3-2- 1 set-up and gave away possession when they had it far too easily.
The front three, so lively of late, laboured. Jon Franks and James Poole were taken off, Charlie Wyke got some protection and support in the form of Steve Howard.
But the changes didn’t really work this time and, while the back four remains a solid unit, it’s going forward where Pools need to regain their spark.
Pools missed Jack Baldwin and his ability to win the second balls and move the ball on quickly. Nathan Luscombe started this one and there’s every chance he will play tomorrow, but he needs to be linking up with those ahead of him. Having three midfielders sitting in does leave the front trio isolated at times.
“We are a point closer, but we won’t get down too much,’’ concluded Walton.
“Two clean sheets, so we take the positive side. We have defended really well. It’s the final third in both games which has let us down.
“I’m not saying it’s only down to the front three, we all get into decent positions in there and the final ball or little bit of quality or finesse wasn’t there for anyone.
“The quality we had hasn’t been there. I’ve said in the dressing room that I lost my head a little bit. It’s time now to stand up and be counted, we have to make things happen and the last two games we’ve maybe waited for things to happen.
“We need to claw the points back so it’s up to us to go and grab it. The other teams aren’t going to do it for us are they?
It’s do or die for us. We’ve given ourselves half a chance with nine games to go and we are six points off.
“Everyone has to take the responsibility.’’