Despite a much-improved performance and some really strong periods of play, Pools lost out again at The Vic this afternoon.
A goal in each half saw Stevenage leave Victoria Park with all three points as John Hughes’ side failed to find the killer touch that their performance deserved.
It was a very positive Pools side who took to the field this afternoon as John Hughes provided the style of football he had been promising.
Pools were passing the ball around with determination and poise and looked to be enjoying their football.
Jonathan Franks was involved in the opening exchanges, testing Stevenage from both flanks but a low effort from Steve Howard on the end of one found only the arms of Steve Arnold.
It was an aggressive approach from Hughes’ men who were pressing in numbers; Evan Horwood was enjoying his game down the left, getting involved in the majority of moves and linking up nicely with both Jack Baldwin alongside him and Andy Monkhouse in front.
Jordan Richards tested Arnold with a great strike from distance which sailed through the area only to sting the hands of the visiting keeper as he blocked it out.
Stevenage went on their first attack of the game on 17 minutes and, unfortunately for Pools, it led to the only goal of the first half.
Lucas Akins burst down the right with real pace to force his way into the area only to be stopped in his tracks by the strong Sam Collins who deflected the effort out for a corner kick.
The following corner sailed into the area where Marcus Haber rose to head at goal – his header crashed against the upright but was then put back at goal and past Flinders by a combination of both Haber and Collins.
The goal came massively against the run of play but, rather than let their heads drop as has happened on occasions this season, John Hughes’ side kept plugging away and ensured the visitors had no further efforts on goal in this opening half.
Charlie Wyke, who was heavily involved this afternoon, got stuck in to nick possession and play it on for Franks. And the winger showed enthusiasm to push his way on into the box and shoot on goal but Arnold reacted well to palm the effort away.
From the resulting corner, Franks picked up the ball on the edge of the area to send a shot in through a crowd but again his effort was deflected wide for a corner.
Three Pools players joined forces to try and meet the third corner but their combined header went over the bar.
Despite dominating possession and keeping Arnold busy for much of the first half, Pools went in at the break a goal down but showed enough promise to suggest there was more to come in this game.
After starting the second half in equally bright form, Pools were dealt a very familiar blow on the hour mark.
Stevenage sent a long ball into the Pools box, which saw Jordan Richards pushed from behind but as the right back raised his arms to appeal, the cross into the box hit his hands and the official awarded a penalty.
Lucas Akins took the spot kick and sent it down the middle and past Flinders to make it 2-0, and give Hughes’ side a real test if they were to now get anything from this game.
Once again Pools continued in the right manner and fought for a way back into this game, with a great chance for Antony Sweeney to grab one back quickly. A Horwood freekick into the box was met on the volley by Sweeney but his sweetly-struck effort was somehow blocked off the line to deny Pools a goal.
Luke James was introduced to the action with 20 minutes remaining and the youngster was quickly involved – sending a lovely ball in from the right for Steve Howard to meet in the middle but the big striker sent his header wide of the near post.
With Stevenage doing their best to spoil Pools’ momentum, Hughes’ men took some time to re-find their tempo.
But when they did, they were back to test Steve Arnold; a great ball from Richards on the right found Luke James running in with his eye on goal and the sub did well to meet the cross, but his half-volley tipped against the crossbar on its way out of play.
With the hold-ups in play leading to seven minutes of added time, Pools had more time to press.
And a freekick from the left after Luke James had been fouled was headed at goal by Howard only to once again find the woodwork and bounce away from goal.
With a fantastic touch from the lively Ritchie Humphreys sending Evan Horwood down the left, his ball into the box was met by first Sweeney and then Howard but neither could get the ball over the line.
Despite the big improvement today and the numerous chances on goal, Pools finished the game with defeat – the 20th game in succession without a win.
But there were plenty of signs this afternoon to show that this run must be nearing its end.
Full Time: Pools 0 Stevenage 2
Att: 3265 (55 Stevenage)
Pools: Flinders, Richards, Collins, Baldwin, Horwood, Franks (Walton 68), Sweeney, Humphreys, Monkhouse (James 68), Wyke (Poole 80), Howard
Subs Not Used: McHugh, Johnson, Murray, Noble
Stevenage: Arnold, Gray (Rogers 82), Tansey, Grant, Dunne, Haber (Agyemang 70), Akins, Roberts, Freeman (Hills 58), Comminges, N’Gala
Subs Not Used: Day, Ball, Risser, Shroot