Keeper Loach Pools’ saviour in Bore draw B’HAM WOOD 0 HARTLEPOOL 0
PERHAPS Craig Harrison wanted to mark his 40th birthday a little better, but the Pools boss was satisfied as he reached a personal landmark.
The Gateshead-born former Boro defender turned 40 on Friday and yesterday saw his Pools side play out a rather tame 0-0 draw.
It means Pools are still unbeaten away from home in the National League since August and they have lost only once in 12 games
But would a little bit more ambition see them push on and head back up the M1 last night with three points rather than one?
Pools remain in mid-table, still looking at the play-off zone from the outside when they could and really should be right in the mix.
They now have back-to-back home games to come against Aldershot and Halifax and they could do with six points to prove they mean business.
In Hertfordshire yesterday they were – once again – indebted to goalkeeper Scott Loach.
He pulled off a second-half penalty save to keep the score level.
Harrison said: “A point was the minimum I wanted before we came here – I’m disappointed we didn’t win the game, but another point is good. I’m adamant every point is worthy.
“A clean sheet is a bonus too and we are thankful to Scott Loach for it. We went to win it as the game went on, it was there for us, and we had four strikers on the pitch at the end.
“We gained a bit of momentum from Scott’s penalty save and didn’t take advantage of it.’
Harrison will be pleased with a clean sheet after being forced to field a new-look defence. With Liam Donnelly away on Northern Ireland under-21 duty and three other regulars sidelined through injury, the back line was somewhat inexperienced.
Louis Laing had a poor game in the FA Cup defeat at Morecambe the week before, and had to step up his game this week.
The home side’s leading scorer, Bruno Andrade, was denied by Loach from distance. And he again had a pop from outside the penalty area, but Loach wasn’t troubled.
Striker Rhys Oates got Pools on the front foot, cutting inside from the right and sending a whipped shot wide of the far post.
Devante Rodney was back in the side and he drove into space down the right. His low cross found Jon Franks, who turned and his shot was charged down.
Only three minutes into the second half and Pools were up against it as Scott Harrison – recalled to the back four due to a lack of numbers – challenged Blair Turgott in the area and referee Simeon Lucas awarded a penalty.
Loach has been outstanding this season since his summer transfer and got to his left to deny Andrade.
Pools responded as Luke George found Rodney, who drove past his man and rolled the ball across goal without any blue shirt able to meet it.
Once again Loach stood firm, this time Andrade burst clear of Laing on the left and the keeper saved. The home crowd started to celebrate as Andrade looked certain to net the rebound, but somehow put it wide.
Pools were backed by 289 fans and Harrison saluted the travelling support.
“We had a third of the crowd here today, we have to make sure they get as much praise as the players,” he said.
“They have been fantastic travelling all over the country and the players appreciate it.
“Come the end of the season they will have got us 10-15 points through their loyalty and we all appreciate it immensely.’’
Gateshead striker Danny Johnson celebrates his goal in the 3-0 National League win at Maidenhead
Jordan Burrow contests a high ball