Richard Mennear’s analysis: Hartlepool United staring into the abyss after 13th league defeat

Hartlepool United and Wycombe Wanderers in action at the Victoria Ground.
Hartlepool United and Wycombe Wanderers in action at the Victoria Ground.
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ANOTHER Saturday, another defeat.

Hartlepool United suffered their 13th of the season to Wycombe Wanderers at home on Saturday – unlucky for some? Being unlucky has nothing to do with it.

Schmeltz in action for Hartlepool United agaionst Wycombe Wanderers at the Victoria Ground.

Schmeltz in action for Hartlepool United agaionst Wycombe Wanderers at the Victoria Ground.

No, the latest in a long line of defeats was once again down to individual errors, poor decision making and lack of concentration – basic errors that need cutting out.

If Pools are going to get out of this almost terminal position then they are going to have to fight for it yet defeat to league leaders Wycombe seemed almost inevitable once the first goal went in.

Pools even managed to miss a penalty – Neil Austin shooting high over the bar from 12-yards – which would have pulled the scores level.

Two quick-fire second half goals then sealed what turned out to be a comfortable, routine win for Gareth Ainsworth’s side.

Marlon Harewood scores for Hartlepool United during the match agaist Wycombe Wanderers at the Victoria Ground.

Marlon Harewood scores for Hartlepool United during the match agaist Wycombe Wanderers at the Victoria Ground.

Sound familiar? I almost copied and pasted last week’s match report.

This was the second successive weekend Pools have lost on home soil 3-1, with the opposition again scoring twice in quick succession.

Call it a lack of confidence or a lack of talent, this side collapse when they go behind hence the dire situation they find themselves in.

There is no shame in losing to the league leaders, who no doubt enjoyed their Christmas night out in Newcastle after the match.

Austin after the match gainst Wycombe Wanderers.

Austin after the match gainst Wycombe Wanderers.

Before kick-off 23 points and 23 places separated the two sides, yet for large periods of the game there wasn’t much between them.

The crucial difference was that Wycombe took their chances when they arrived and Pools did not, Austin’s penalty the prime example.

What is most worrying for Pools supporters is that there has been no instant uplift since Paul Murray came in as manager – along with eight new signings.

In five league games Pools have picked up a solitary point and have lost their last three matches.

Marlon Harewood on the attack against Wycombe Wanderers.

Marlon Harewood on the attack against Wycombe Wanderers.

That isn’t putting the blame on Murray’s shoulders, far from it, this period of decline and under investment goes back five years.

But to stay up this season 50/51 points is a must. For a team that has won just three times in 19 games with a goal difference now of minus 20, that is a huge ask.

In the remaining 27 matches Pools are going to have to win at least 10 of them - a winning ratio unheard of at the club in recent seasons.

The writing is already on the wall and the ink is getting darker with each passing week.

Murray made four changes to his starting line-up, handing starts to loan signings Matteo Lanzoni, Adam Campbell and Matty Dolan with Matthew Bates also returning in place of the injured Sam Collins.

Pools started brightly.

Lanzoni of of Hartlepool United in action against Wycombe Wanderers.

Lanzoni of of Hartlepool United in action against Wycombe Wanderers.

Dolan showed within the opening three minutes why Murray was keen to bring him back, whipping in two dangerous corners with his wand of a left foot.

Yet after that there was little to shout about in the opening stages with both sides showing plenty of endeavour but little being created in the final third.

Wycombe’s Aaron Pierre had the first attempt on target, his dipping shot on a wet surface from 20-yards was well-held by Scott Flinders in the 20th minute.

Matt Bloomfield’s ambitious effort from a similar distance was more like a conversion than a shot as it sailed high into the stand.

Wycombe then showed why they are top with a touch of class in the 33rd minute.

Captain Paul Hayes with a superb cross from the right flank to find Paris Cowan-Hall who beat Jordan Richards to the ball to power home a header from six-yards.

Five minutes before the interval and the chance came for Pools to find their way back into the match.

Marlon Harewood, heading away from goal, was inexplicably fouled by Joe Jacobson and referee Jeremy Simpson had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

Up stepped regular penalty taker Austin, who had scored from the spot just a few weeks back against Luton Town.

Sadly, his effort summed up Pools’ current plight, blasting the ball high into the roof of the Town End. An awful miss.

Wycombe then almost doubled their lead just before the break, Alfie Mawson again with a free header that cannoned off the left-hand post.

The second-half was a drab affair for the first 20 minutes, with little happening as Wycombe looked to close the game down.

At every opportunity right-back Sido Jombati took an age from throw ins to slow the game down and frustrate Pools who struggled to produce any prolonged periods of pressure.

Again lacking creativity and pace when they did have the ball.The atmosphere inside The Vic was gloomy, with despondent Pools fans watching their side struggle to break down the league leaders.

Sub Jonathan Franks fizzed a low shot towards goal from 20-yards in the 72nd minute, Matthew Ingram scampering across to make a comfortable save. The game then burst into life, sadly in favour of the visitors.

First, Franks gave the ball away to allow Wycombe to break upfield at pace in the 76th minute.

The ball was eventually fed to Hayes who was given too much time and space to pull the ball back to Bloomfield whose low right-footed shot from 12-yards flew past Flinders.

Then, three minutes later, Mawson made it 3-0.

His free towering header six-yards out from a Jacobson corner was all too easy. How many times are Pools going to let the opposition have a free header inside the box?

Harewood pulled one goal back in the 83rd minute, poking the ball high into the net from close range to make it 3-1 for the second successive week.

Talk about groundhog day.

Pools – who have won just once in the league at home all season – are staring into the abyss.

Pools (4-3-3): Flinders (C), Richards, Lanzoni, Bates, Austin, Featherstone, Walker (Franks, 65), Dolan, Campbell (Schmeltz, 58), Harewood, Fenwick.

Subs Not Used: Maxted, Jones, Hawkins, Woods, Ironside.

Booking: Schmeltz (80)

Goal: Harewood (83)

Wycombe (4-4-2): Ingram, Jombati, Jacobson, Scowen, Pierre, Cowan-Hall (Onyedinma, 82), Hayes (C) (Kretzschmar, 90), Bloomfield, Craig (McClure 77), Murphy, Mawson.

Subs Not Used: Richardson, Lewis, Fletcher, Rowe.

Goal: Cowan-Hall (33) Bloomfield (76) Mawson (79)

Booking: Cowan-Hall (80)

Attendance: 3,053 (Wycombe 163)

Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).