Hartlepool United 0 Northampton Town 0 – match review, player ratings and highlights

Zander Diamond was the pick of the bunch on a rare off day for the Cobblers

Zander Diamond was the pick of the bunch on a rare off day for the Cobblers

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In an exhilarating season full of thrills and spills, this instantly forgettable goalless draw is one game which is unlikely to feature prominently on the end of season highlights reel.

If ever a game bucked a trend, this was it as the usually free-scoring Cobblers were blunted by a committed yet toothless Hartlepool side in a contest high on spirit but low on quality.

In a season of ups and downs, twists and turns, a game and performance like this one has been long overdue but it’s a shame such a memorable run of results ended in such lacklustre fashion and on a day when over 400 Cobblers fans made the 400-mile round trip.

It would be greedy to grumble though.

After all, this was just the second time Northampton have failed to win in 17 League Two matches, ending a run of eight successive away wins and 10 in all.

In a 46-game, ninth-month campaign, games like this one on the north east coast are inevitable, especially amid such a crowded run of fixtures.

After four wins from four in 11 days, there was a certain inevitably about the outcome of this encounter as the Cobblers were never able find their mojo against a Pools side who showed plenty of endeavour but no cutting edge.

Despite Jason Taylor’s best efforts, John-Joe O’Toole, who missed out through illness, was a significant miss in midfield, particularly given that Danny Rose chose this day to have comfortably his worst Northampton game to date with the former Oxford man too often guilty of losing possession.

Marc Richards’ experience up front was another loss as John Marquis and James Collins seemed to spend most of their time bumping into each other , although they weren’t helped by constantly having to chase lost causes as neither Lee Martin and Ricky Holmes could conjure up any magic on this occasion.

Ironically, Northampton’s best spell came in a lively opening 10 minutes when Martin looked particularly dangerous on the left but his inability to produce a telling end product rather set the tone for the afternoon.

That bright start would soon seam a distant memory as the game quickly deteriorated and became sluggish and disjointed with neither side able to keep possession long enough to build up a head of steam and seriously trouble either goalkeeper.

The most likely source of a goal came on the counter-attack where both teams’ pace caused problems, Nathan Thomas for the hosts and Martin for the visitors, but time and again the final ball was found wanting.

United showed the sort of tenacity typified by a side fighting relegation as Pools shaded what chances there were but it’s a struggle to recall much in the way of genuine goalscoring opportunities, Thomas heading over when unmarked perhaps the game’s clearest chance.

It was unusual to see a Northampton side who have attacked with such ruthlessness and freedom this season struggle to carve out one clear-cut chance of note against a team who have been in free-fall this season.

Collins miscued a Martin cross straight at Trevor Carson while Holmes curled a long-ranger a few yards wide but that was scraping the barrel as the Cobblers never found any fluency.

A goalless draw always seemed the most likely outcome and so it proved when the final 10 minutes petered out as both teams looked to have accepted the point.

The fact that it was a point closer to the ultimate goal of promotion made the 400-mile round trip worthwhile, as did a fifth clean sheet in six games and Luke Prosser’s tidy debut with the Southend man slotting straight in having replaced the ill Rod McDonald on 27 minutes.

The 10-game winning run might be over but promotion remains within touching distance.

How they rated...

Adam Smith - For all Hartlepool’s endeavour, they never really once tested Smith whose main work involved collecting crosses... 7

Brendan Moloney - Not up to his recent high standards but far from the worst player on the pitch... 6

Zander Diamond - The best of a poor bunch. Couple of important blocks and interceptions helped keep Smith quiet and see out a fifth clean sheet in six... 8 CHRON STAR MAN

Rod McDonald - Afternoon was cut short when forced off after 27 minutes... 6

David Buchanan - Excellent first half, couple of really crucial challenges but struggled to cut out the barrage crosses in the second half... 7

Ricky Holmes - Nothing came off in a rare off day for the winger... 6

Jason Taylor - Good performance, both in possession and out of it. Tidy on the ball and never afraid to put in a tackle... 7

Danny Rose - Sloppy in possession as several passes went astray in comfortably his worst performance since signing for the club... 6

Lee Martin - Carried Town’s biggest threat in the first half but end product was severely lacking before being withdrawn shortly after the hour-mark... 6

John Marquis - Began brightly but like many of his team-mates, faded as the game wore on... 6

James Collins - Barely had a sniff bar one half chance which was easy for Carson. Was left chasing lost causes... 6

Substitutes

Luke Prosser - Slotted straight in and made one goal-saving interception withint moments of coming on... 7

Lawson D’Ath - 6

Joel Byrom - 6