Pools let the win get away at the death HARTLEPOOL 1 DAGENHAM 2
SEVEN defeats in a row for Hartlepool, and without a permanent manager. This season wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Then again the calamity of last season wasn’t either.
Matthew Bates was sacked last week after a sixth defeat in a row, Craig Hignett taking over as a temporary boss.
New boss, same story. Pools were leading 1-0 as the game entered the 90th minute and still contrived to throw it away.
Until the dramatic ending, Pools were the better team, taking the game to the opposition and being positive in attack. They played on the front foot and attacked well.
Pools started well, looking far from a team struggling and in freefall. After one early penalty appeal was knocked back, they were soon awarded one. Mark Kitching was tugged in the box.
Liam Noble, captain and back in the team after being dumped by Bates for disciplinary reasons, made no mistake, sending the keeper the wrong way from 12 yards.
Josh Hawkes was playing in a free role behind the front two and the teenager impressed.
A flowing move saw Hawkes venture into space to shoot from 20 yards, his shot deflected and then pushed over by Elliot Justham.
The keeper then almost spilled a Niko Muir shot into his own net, happy to see it bounce out for a corner.
Daggers’ Jack Munns, who spent a disappointing spell at Pools last season, was replaced after an ineffectual hour.
Pools should have had a second when Carl Magnay met a Noble corner in the six-yard area, but steered wide.
The Daggers weren’t offering much going forward, and Pools were good for their advantage.
Niko Muir, Luke James and Josh Hawkes opened up the visitors defence with their movement and sharp passing, but the latter had a lapse of concentration, passing to the keeper instead of shooting with a clear opening 18 yards out.
But the game turned on its head late on. Connor Newton, on at left wing back for Kitching, fouled Alex McQueen, with the visitors adamant the foul was in the area and they should have had a penalty.
It mattered little. From the free-kick, Ben Goodliffe was gifted enough space to head in.
Pools chased a winner from a corner. Instead they were caught on the counter-attack.
Keeper Scott Loach parried, Matt Robinson tapped in. Cue the familiar abject misery from all inside Victoria Park.
Pools will be looking to swiftly appoint a new boss this week. Among the candidates are exNewcastle and Sunderland star Lee Clark, while Hignett admitted the club has had a lot of candidates already making their interest known.
“It’s a sucker punch, I feel like I’ve been battered,” he said. “In parts I was so pleased, but it’s remembered for the ending.
“It’s happened a lot to us with a soft underbelly – and it needs addressing, but for 89 minutes we were fantastic.
“I wouldn’t dig people out like that, Connor knows what is required, he’s held us hands up in the dressing room we win together, we lose together.’’
As for the vacant job, he said: “We have had a lot of applications, a lot of good ones and we draw up a list over the weekend and will hopefully speak to people soon. There’s a real good squad of players there, but they need a bit more.
“This is the worst we are going to get with the way things are in terms of the squad and budget. We still want the playoffs, promotion as quick as we can but I know we will keep improving as a football club.’’
Action from the FA Vase clash between Shildon and Sunderland RCA; the latter won 3-2 REPORT: Pages 62-63
Gavin Cogdon and Jon Shaw (left) celebrate scoring for South Shields against Matlock REPORT: Page 66