Manager John Askey can’t believe Hartlepool are struggling to stay up after another encouraging display failed to end in victory following a 1-1 draw against leaders Leyton Orient.
Pools have now drawn all five games since Askey took over from Keith Curle last month and they could easily have beaten a side on course for automatic promotion at the Suit Direct Stadium.
Hartlepool hit the woodwork twice in the closing stages from Wes McDonald and Dan Kemp’s efforts and another late opportunity went to waste after a lack of communication in the box.
Those followed Connor Jennings’ second goal for Hartlepool nine minutes from time, when he calmly found the far corner to cancel out Paul Smyth’s 48th-minute opener for Orient.
Despite the positive performance the gap between Hartlepool and Crawley just above them increased to four points.
Askey said: “We are feeling disappointed we haven’t got three points, we deserved it. We finished really strongly and there was only one team going to win in the end.
“I feel for the players, they put in a lot of effort and there was a lot of quality in the performance as well.
“They have played well and only got a point to show for it. We can’t be too down because they are playing well.
“Anybody as a neutral who didn’t know who was who, they wouldn’t be able to tell who was top or bottom. There was very little between the two.
“I have said I can’t believe where we are with the quality we have in the team.
“Towards the end it was great to hear the support in here. Everyone urging the players on. It is a shame the fans have gone away seeing a draw and not a win.”
Smyth’s brilliant opener just after half-time was his 10th of the season but first since December 17.
Despite the draw, Richie Wellens’ side are five points clear at the top but he thinks they should have made more of half chances in the first period.
Wellens said: “We should have been out of sight. We should have been two or three up and then we should have dealt with their goal better, it was a bad mistake.
“Before that there was no danger against a club fighting for their lives with a good manager trying to change the momentum here.
“The biggest frustration is when we were doing what we could do we were a threat. Paul Smyth was in numerous times first half.
“Our game management was not the best in the last 15 minutes.
“We are nowhere near the finished article. I have said that before. We will improve. We have got so much improvement in us still and we know that.”
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