Flashback to February 2013 and Hartlepool were comprehensively beaten by then top of league 1 Doncaster Rovers. A game where the final outcome was desperately predictable, Doncaster were streets ahead of their opponents and strolled to a 3-0 victory.
Hartlepool were relegated to League 2. Doncaster, on the other hand, were promoted. Hartlepool’s defeat in February to Doncaster turned out to be a fair reflection on the quality between top and bottom of that season’s League 1 table. Hartlepool were simply not good enough.
On Boxing Day of this season Hartlepool faced Chesterfield. Chesterfield sat top of the table and Hartlepool were languishing in the lower echelons of the division. A home win was expected as Hartlepool searched for their first win in 5.
Pools’ have been consistent. However they have been consistently drawing and failing to convert draws into wins. The killer instinct has been missing despite having Luke James in their roster. Maybe they are over reliant upon their 19 year old wonderkid?
In the last home game against a very well organised Burton side, Hartlepool struggled to penetrate and only just rescued a point with a blockbuster strike for Brad Walker, the seventeen year old’s first goal. Burton are currently 3rd but in a table whereby 4 points separates 1st and 7th. It’s a funny division and the need for a late surge of form will be vital come April/May time.
Chesterfield are 10 points ahead of Hartlepool after a fruitful season. 10 points however, on the face of the Boxing Day draw, is nothing. It is a division of very fine margins.
In a game that was described as “slapstick comedy at times” by Hartlepool manager Colin Cooper, the match provided a fine advert for league 2 football. Andy Monkhouse was sent off for Hartlepool, there was end to end action and a penalty to get the boxing day bumper crowd rocking. Chesterfield were no better than Hartlepool and either side could have walked away with the 3 points and claimed they deserved it. Ultimately a draw was a fair result.
Led by ex Hartlepool legend Ritchie Humphreys who was released by the away side, Chesterfield could have punished Pools’ for a slow start with 2 chances cleared off the line. After this scare though, Hartlepool were equal.
In Luke James Hartlepool possessed the best player on the pitch and his ability to win headers against the towering partnership of Hird and Evatt was exceptional. Jack Baldwin and Christian Burgess marshaled the defence and managed to contend with the danger of Richards and Darikwa with ease.
It is apparent from the reaction of Chesterfield fans after the game that they are also puzzled by their current league position. All too similar utterances could be heard outside the stadium from disgruntled Chesterfield fans who appeared to be disappointed with the result.
“Unconvincing” was the conclusion and this was from fans of a club in first position.
Hartlepool can count themselves well within the bracket of a side that can be “there or thereabouts” in the promotion shake up after the Boxing Day bout. Sadly the same sentiments are likely heard at over 16 other League 2 clubs who probably feel they are just short of being at the pinnacle of the division.
On the same day as ‘Pools versus Chesterfield, second bottom Bury drew with third top Scunthorpe. Lowly Accrington Stanley have strung an 8 game unbeaten run together that stretched through October and November. They were formerly cut well adrift at the bottom of the table and their successes included a victory against hot favourites Fleetwood. Bottom club Northampton also beat Fleetwood in November with Northampton being the side currently struggling to enjoy their football.
Put quite simply the only way to succeed in this league is to be consistent.