Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting NORTHERN ECHO to 80360 or email us
Pools throw away more points with late slip-up
Final Score: Hartlepool United 1 Doncaster Rovers 1
FROM positions of strength, Hartlepool United roll over and die.
Leading Doncaster Rovers with two minutes to go on Saturday, Pools looked good for only their second win of the season.
Instead, they conceded a slack free-kick, failed to defend it, and paid the price as Rob Jones headed in an equaliser.
Three points were turned into one in an instant.
And that’s now an astonishing 15 points dropped from winning positions this season.
For a team without a victory since September 1 – eight games in League One and a JPT tie – these are points they cannot afford to throw away.
A week after their only triumph, they should have beaten Carlisle. Instead, two late goals turned victory into defeat.
It’s over a year now – 51 games all in – since Pools won back-to-back games.
Wins over Bury and Bournemouth last September brought six points from six and extended that sequence to 12 from 12.
The fact that they have a habit of collapsing after conceding and their inability to see out games shows the fragile nature of their mentality.
Now, with Orient to come tomorrow and Crawley on Saturday before a visit to Bury, the only team still below Pools in the table, they could do with breaking their pitiful record.
They need six points from somewhere in these next three matches. Losing to Bury a week tomorrow is strictly off-limits.
Bournemouth, Carlisle, Sheffield United and now Doncaster have all scored decisive goals in the closing minutes.
Is it down to fitness or mentality?
Saturday’s dropped points had similarities to those against Carlisle.
Pools led in both, and in both Jon Franks had a glorious chance to put the game to bed, but fluffed his lines and the opposition made the most of their let-off.
Franks has two good, wellstruck and instinctive goals to his name this season. He should have more. Played in by a neat Ritchie Humphreys pass on Saturday on 83 minutes, he was in on goal but allowed goalkeeper Mark Woods to come off his line and smother.
“Jon Franks needs to make better decisions,’’ said manager Neale Cooper. “I know what he’s capable of. When it’s instinctive he does it better, when he’s got time sometimes not.’’ He added: “The Franks chance could have killed it. At 1-0 they’ll always have a chance to grab something.
“Jon had a chance to run the ball in the corner but tried to play a diagonal ball and it went for a throw-in. That’s where the goal came from.’’ It would, however, be unfair to cite the miss as the game changer.
There was more to it than that and a string of factors contributed to the leveller – a needless free-kick given away, failure to react to the quicklytaken dead ball, allowing the cross into the area, then letting Jones creep in to nod in.
Too many crosses are allowed to get into the danger area from wide and Doncaster managed it, just as Sheffield United had on 88 minutes a couple of weeks ago.
Pools have played better and the various lows of the season do appear to be behind them. Now they need to find a few highs.
The crowd were lifted for the first time on Saturday on 56 minutes when James Poole’s arcing shot was tipped around the post and Steve Howard headed the corner at goal.
It was, however, too flat for too long.
When Howard was pulled and held by two defenders, referee Graham Scott awarded a penalty and Neil Austin scored.
It should, especially after Scott Flinders’ save to keep out a teasing Dave Cotterill shot, have been enough.
“I feel sorry for the boys because it’s been hard and confidence has been low,’’ admitted Cooper. “I thought we defended well until that last minute against a good strikeforce.
“We spoke about it afterwards and it’s a needless foul which Peter has conceded. We weren’t in any danger because the lad is facing away from goal and is up the park.
“Peter has gone through his back and given away the freekick.
It goes wide and it’s a great cross and it was hard to defend that.
“But we’ve got to be positive because it’s hard right now.
“This is a good point and can we build on it?’’