Loanee Roy O’Donovan nets a hat trick against struggling Southend to ease relegation fears
Freezing conditions, a low crowd and two struggling teams did not provide the neutral with much to look forward to.
Andy Monkhouse, who returned from a two-match ban, replaced Colin Larkin on the left with this being the only change made by Chris Turner.
Southend made two changes with Franck Moussa replacing the suspended Jean-Francois Christophe and Francis Laurent coming in for Sanchez Watt whose loan had expired.
Within 70 seconds, there was controversy with Roy O’Donovan being brought down in what looked like the penalty area but after much hesitation and flag waving from the linesman the referee chose to give a free kick. The resulting free kick was skied by Neil Austin.
Boyd had a fantastic effort saved by the Southend keeper after the strikers 20 yard dipping shot looked destined for goal. Boyd, for all his great close control, does lack a turn of speed that would make him a whole different class of player. Today, he was good with knock ons and turns that were very effective.
Jinky winger Scannel for Southend was causing Pools some problems and he could have curled an effort into the corner after beating Austin down the wing.
Southend’s team has certainly taken a battering and the striking qualities were certainly missing since Barnard left for Southampton.
Pools took the lead in the 16th minute with O’Donovan getting his first when he received a fantastic through ball from Boyd before crashing the ball into the corner of the net. A predators finish and a nerve calmer that was just what was needed.
Southend then applied some pressure to the Pools defence with the whole team sitting back far too deep. Gamble, for his small stature, looks after himself and kills play well and had a very impressive afternoon. He was pivotal in stopping the midfield maestro in Moussa for Southend.
The second goal came from no where and many expected an offside flag to be raised. Boyd’s through ball was left by the offside Ritchie Jones and O’Donovan pounced on some terrible Southend defending to pick his spot and score. A very impressive finish again but this was a striker playing on the shoulder of M’Voto who was having a treacherous afternoon at the back.
At 2-0 the Southend players saw the half out with little resurgence on Hartlepool. A team in the doldrums, Southend were right there for the taking.
A very pantomime feel was directed at Southend midfielder Laurent who had dived, feigned injury and squared up to Neil Austin, as he left the pitch. His every touch was met with boos from that moment onwards.
Half Time- Hartlepool 2 Southend 0
M’Voto was taken off at half time for Southend after his woeful display, that was no surprise.
Southend applied some pressure with Moussa and Francis both going very close. If they had scored, at 2-1, the game would have changed significantly. It’s fair to say that having rode their luck, Pools managed to steady the ship and performed in a professional manner to finish the job.
In the 82nd minute Southend were reduced to 10 men after a second bookable offence, a foul on Monkhouse, saw Alan McCormack sent off. This was inevitable considering McCormack’s persistant barracking of the referee and his silly tackles.
Francis struck the post for Southend before O’Donovan wrapped the game up with a masterful finish in the 90th minute. Denis Behan set the Irish striker up who casually drilled the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal.
It’s significant how one player can make such a difference, he could be the fine line between relegation and savior. O’Donovan is going to be a big player in the run in.
Full Time- Hartlepool 3 Southend 0
All credit to Hartlepool, we performed well and were fairly comfortable throughout to see the job out. Southend were very poor, that’s a given, but it’s games like these that if we finish them off we will easily escape relegation.
I think Southend have enough quality in their side to stay up but it’s certainly testing times in Essex. Barrat, Francis and Moussa are the players I would expect to leave Southend next.
Boyd and O’Donovan’s link up play was extremely impressive today. O’Donovan made the defences’ lives a nightmare and to notch a hat trick is a great effort.
Gary Liddle was solid alongside Collins and Gamble and Sweeney both played steady games. Jones was quieter than normal but the game passed him by and he was taken off with a slight back injury.
It’s a shame that the crowd was so low today, but it is now a matter of just seeing the season out so there can be no surprise that some people may give it a miss. O’Donovan seems set to make the same impact that Daryl Duffy had when he joined Pools on loan. It is remarkable what a bit of pace can do for a team up front.
3 away games coming up, all three very tricky encounters to state the obvious, any points would be appreciated before a crunch game at home against Danny Wilson’s Swindon. All in all, a pretty enjoyable afternoon watching my team win.
MOM: Roy O’Donovan
Pools: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Liddle, Hartley, Jones (Brown 63), Sweeney, Gamble (Humphreys 69), Monkhouse, Boyd (Behan 80), O’Donovan. Subs not used: Cook, Bjornsson, McSweeney, Haslam. Booked: Sweeney (69)
Southend: Mildenhall, Francis, Baldwin, M’Voto (Malone 46), Barrett, Scannell, McCormack, Moussa, Laurent, Paterson (Spencer 73), Vernon. Subs not used: Sankofa, Herd, Jack, Crawford. Booked: McCormack (36)