So on a bitterly cold day when the only thing bright and sunny was the sky, City slumped to their fourth home defeat on the trot going down 2-1 to Hartlepool in front of a hardy 4931 supporters, including a season low of just over 60 visiting fans. City lined up: Hamer; Golbourne. Jones, Taylor, Duffy, Tully; Harley, Noble, Dunne; Cureton, O'Flynn.
City were buoyed by a recent run of seven points from three away games on the bounce, but once again were caught cold at home through a series of sloppy errors and needlessly giving the ball away. St James Park used to be something of a fortress, but it appears these days that after four consecutive home defeats the drawbridge is down, portcullis up and a huge welcome mat is laid out inviting all and sundry to come and take as many points as they fancy.
As it was it was City who made the brightest start, narrowly edging out their opponents in a difficult opening where any thoughts of crisp controlled football were dashed by a swirling wind blowing all four corner flags in four different directions at once. City came closest to opening the scoring on the quarter hour though with a sweet move down the right. Tully pushed the ball through to O'Flynn who whipped a ball in towards the near post. Cureton timed his run to meet the ball perfectly, but a defender was on hand to block his goalbound header to safety from a couple of yards out.
In the 20th minute the visitors took the lead. The ball was worked down the right and played to Andy Monkhouse on the corner of the box. He was allowed to wriggle his way across the face of the box past a couple of defenders before firing low past Hamer into the far corner to make it 1-0 to Hartlepool. Eight minutes later Pool made it 2-0 with the help of a calamitous series of mistakes from the City defence. Firstly Taylor misdirected a header back and across the box and while Billy Jones did his best Statue of Liberty impression stood there with his arm aloft in a fruitless plea for offside, Monkhouse nipped round the back for an unimpeded run in on goal easily slotting the ball past Hamer low into the far corner.
Just after the half hour mark Duffy stooped to butt a Harley free kick narrowly past the post, then a couple of minutes later Jones looked to make amends for his earlier howler by curling a vicious free kick inches past the far post from distance. A further minute later O'Flynn sent Harley scampering across the box where he showed deft skill dinking the ball over a rapidly advancing keeper only to look on in horror as the ball bounced off the post and then cleared away to safety as O'Flynn looked to capitalise on the rebound.
City's best chance of the half however came in the final minute. Harley sent a raking cross field ball to Tully cutting in on the opposite diagonal where he burst into the box without having to break stride. Unfortunately Scott Flinders in the Hartlepool goal stayed big and tall and blocked Tully's poke on goal from 12 yards out.
With the second half soon underway O'Flynn and Jones made way for Logan and Edwards respectively as City searched for a way back into the game, but still it was Hartlepool who almost scored first when a 30 yard free kick skimmed the top of the bar, then minutes later Duffy cleared off the line as Monkhouse and Antony Sweeney broke through on goal for a two on one with Hamer in the City goal.
In the 11th minute City finally mounted a meaningful break when the effervescent Harley danced his way round the box before pinging in a cross to Logan at the far post who could only direct his header onto an opponent's head before seeing the ball cleared. Two minutes later City finally found the net when Harley stormed down the right before drilling a low ball towards the penalty spot where Cureton slammed a first time shot through a crowd of players into the back of the net to reduce arrears to 2-1.
Nardiello was introduced in the 18th minute at the expense of Duffy as City reverted to a 4-3-3 formation, but yet again it was Hartlepool who looked dangerous when their substitute's first contribution to the game was to burst into the City box. Unfortunately he blotted his copybook somewhat by rather easily crashing to the turf and thus earning himself a booking for simulation rather than the penalty he was looking for.
With ten minutes to go City pressed forward in search of an equaliser, and Cureton was rather fortuitously set on his way by a Hartlepool clearance that cannoned back off a team mate. As he eventually bought the ball under control, he played it square to Logan who directed a well placed curling shot towards the far corner from the edge of the box. The keeper was equal to it, but could only push it into the path of Harley who, from a devilishly tight angle was thwarted by a combination of defender and keeper. Nardiello then freed Harley, but as he skipped around a defender and keeper the whistle had long since gone for offside before Harley doinked the ball home.
In the 40th minute Tully launched a hanging cross from deep where Taylor flicked a header towards the top corner. Cureton came racing in at the far post to butt home, but Flinders was well placed to tip over from point blank range. The final action came a minute later when Flinders saved well from Nardiello's drive from distance after working himself a bit of space 25 yards out.
And if we're to avoid defeat number five on Tuesday night when Tranmere visit then we're just simply going to have to cut out the needless errors at the back and the ease at which we give the ball away time and again when either well placed or with time and space. If we can do that, and be a little more ruthless in front of goal, then surely this wretched home run will come to a swift end. Let's hope so, and let's get behind the lads on Tuesday and give them all the encouragement we can to help them achieve it.