Onwards and Upwards


BILLY'S CONTRACT


Yet another month passes and Pools still remain unbeaten for ages and hanging on to the coveted second spot in the National League.

At one point, I think that Torquay had what looked to be a 14 point unassailable lead over Pools and at the time of press, Pools, albeit having played three more games, are now six points clear of the Devon club.

In fairness, I did predict that at some stage Torquay would have a drop in form, which coincided with the loss of their leading goal scorer. I said the same of Sutton but every time the 'U's look like losing a match they always seem to pull a late winner out of the bag. Today against Halifax - two nil down and if it wasn't for a disallowed goal they would have won yet again. I am not sure how many times they have come from behind and secured a point or three and goodness knows how many goals they have scored in the last ten minutes as well as stoppage time.

Sutton are the equivalent of Alex Ferguson's Manchester United and never give up until the final whistle is blown in the 98th minute. There is always hope that they may still stutter as they have a goodly number of games to cram in in a short period and are also involved in the FA Trophy, which might be a distraction.
"A win and a draw will not get Pools out of this league automatically. Draws need to be converted into wins."

Whilst there is only a slight chance of Pools catching Sutton and gaining automatic promotion, the commentator of the Stockport streaming service today was overly optimistic, suggesting that if they beat Pools on the day and Sutton lose at Halifax, County would be in with a good shout of winning the league outright. Yeah, in your dreams perhaps, or maybe next season.

I feel that at times, despite our unbeaten run, Pools have on occasions ridden their luck, even against the likes some of the lesser teams such as part-time Woking, who could and should have, by their second-half display, easily taken all three points at the Vic. That said, even the most successful teams can suffer a visit from Lady Luck.

My main worry about Pools, Luke Armstrong aside, is that despite dominating many games for long periods, we are not scoring enough goals and seem to keep supporters on the edge of their seats by hanging on to a one-nil lead. I would like to see someone playing up front alongside Armstrong to share some of the load.

Another concern is that if Armstrong picks up a long-term injury or Salford won't allow him to play in the playoffs, where are the goals going to come from as we do not have another natural goal scorer in the squad. Once again the midfield would have to take up the mantle.

All eyes rightly look on Luke Armstrong's goal-scoring exploits, and where would we be without them? Certainly not in a playoff position.

The player that has stood out for me and transformed the side is Gary Liddle. I think the best compliment I can give him is that when he came back from injury our defence improved at a stroke. Our back line is playing more as a disciplined unit and keeps its shape when he is in the side. He is playing with an enthusiasm that belies his years and this is rubbing off on those alongside him, particularly Ryan Johnson, whose game is looking more assured.

I like the way Liddle carries the ball out from the back and into midfield thus freeing up and taking some of the pressure off Nicky Featherstone who has in recent weeks been man-marked by many of our opponents. It is no coincidence that in 15 starts he has never been on the losing side. Another who I hope that we can keep injury free.

Despite one glaring error that cost a goal, Ben Killip has improved during the campaign. Of late he is catching crosses instead of punching them out into no man's land and when called into action has made several outstanding as well as match-winning saves which cannot do his confidence any harm.

An area where Pools need to get their act together is their away form which in the main consists of draws. At this time of lockdown, with empty stadiums, I fail to see how any club cannot play in the same manner as they do at home at an away fixture with no crowd. A win and a draw will not get Pools out of this league automatically. Draws need to be converted into wins.

Given that Sutton are champions-elect, the team I fear most is Notts County who, despite being eleven points behind Pools, have six* games in hand. Surely they cannot win them all. I wonder if secret agent Kenton Richardson, who has joined County on loan from Sunderland, can assist Pools in their quest to get out of this God-forsaken league.

Chesterfield are another dark horse.

Pools need to keep picking up points. There is nothing they can do about the results of rivals who are also chasing a playoff spots, though a goodly number have yet to play each other.

One thing in Pools' favour is that the likes of Torquay, Stockport and Wrexham, who are placed directly behind Pools, have all had to forfeit 3 points through no fault of their own because of the Dover fiasco.

* Written before Notts helped Pools' cause by losing at home to Aldershot.

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