Thrashed Bradford 5-0 midweek in JPT
7 September ~ Even during the successful years of Chris Turner's early 2000s reign, Hartlepool were perennially slow starters in the league. Beaten in the Division Three play-offs in 2000-01, Pools began the following season by winning just one of nine league games. A morale-boosting 3-1 win over Carlisle proved to be the turning point; the team began their slow climb up the division and reached the play-offs again after going unbeaten towards the end of the season. After a comparably dismal start this year (five league games; no wins, no goals), there is reason to believe that Tuesday's 5-0 thrashing of Bradford could herald a similar turnaround.
The Football League Trophy was evidently a welcome distraction for Colin Cooper's squad and the midweek win has restored some of the pre-season optimism ahead of Wycombe's visit to Victoria Park.
The core of our young team looks increasingly promising. Goalkeeper and player of the year Scott Flinders is a reassuring presence behind Jack Baldwin and Christian Burgess, who have formed an impressive partnership in central defence. Full-back Michael Duckworth has slotted in seamlessly since his recent arrival from Bradford Park Avenue.
Middlesbrough loanee Matty Dolan, who last year helped Yeovil to League One promotion, adds a fleeting touch of quality in the centre of midfield, while ex-Portsmouth winger Jack Compton provides a more direct threat down the left-hand side. The emergence of 17-year-old midfielder Brad Walker, meanwhile, was one of few positives in a dire 0-0 draw at York.
Unfortunately, our league goal drought remains a real concern. Pools were the lowest scorers in the Football League last season and little has been done to rectify the problem. Steve Howard was the division's top scorer in that 2001-02 season but he has infuriated many in his second spell at Hartlepool, complaining about a lack of resources and, during his loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship, hinting that he had dropped down a division "too soon" – this despite a meagre return of just three goals in 36 games last term. Five different players scored in the demolition of Bradford but it is likely that a dearth of strikers will prohibit anything more than a mid-table finish this year.
Still, the immediate priority is to get out of the relegation zone and three points against Wycombe today would be the ideal way to start. The visitors have enjoyed a solid opening to the season and only a late equaliser denied them victory at high-flying Oxford last weekend. The fast, counter-attacking football was a joy to watch on Tuesday but a gritty 1-0 may be just what we need to get our League campaign off and running. Tom Acey