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Pools progress as Poole strike blunts Blades
Final Score: Sheffield United 0 Hartlepool United 1
TWO away games, two away victories – things seem to be taking shape for Colin Cooper’s Hartlepool United.
Following a comprehensive win at Mansfield at the weekend, Pools last night went to Sheffield United and progressed to the next round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy with some ease.
It was a resolute defensive display, one which was far too smart for the League One strugglers.
“I think we deserved that one,’’ reflected Cooper. “We wanted to follow up Saturday’s win and, while we defended really well, the lads have said in the changing room they can play better – and that’s a great sign.
“I thought we absorbed what Sheffield United presented us with and counter attacked nicely. Away from home we are set up nicely for that.
“We scored one, and could have had more. It was a fantastic effort all round.
“As a defender myself, I can take pride from their work.
Away from home, because of what we have available, if we can stay disciplined, we have enough to hurt teams on the front foot.
“We have come away from home with another nice victory, but all I keep saying is that the newspapers and bookmakers have us down to be thrashed again and we proved them wrong.”
While Collins was outstanding at Mansfield at the weekend, so too was Austin last night, albeit in a different sort of defensive test presented.
There was none of the longball approach of Mansfield, it was more measured, but equally dealt with.
In midfield, Bradley Walker was back after injury and gave a disciplined show, again giving a performance against his youthful inexperience.
At Field Mill, the home side hit the frame of the goal in the opening minutes and the same happened at Bramall Lane, when Jamie Murphy sent a volley against the bar.
Jack Compton, again on the right but not as free flowing or direct as he was at the weekend, cut inside from the flank and shot low into keeper Mark Howard.
Luke James, again full of nuisance value against two big central defenders, had the game’s clearest opening.
James Poole, revelling in the classic No 10 role off the front man, played a ball in and beyond the square back four.
James took possession, but his finish was pushed wide.
Then, after the Blades had gone through a spell of possession without looking like breaking through, Pools took the lead.
A long Darren Holden throw was lobbed towards Andy Monkhouse. Centrehalves Harry Maguire and Neill Collins both went for it and the ball spun out.
Poole, loitering with intent, shaped his body and sent a low volley into the corner.
In injury time, a goalbound volley was kept out by Pools keeper Scott Flinders, but it was – just like anything else he had to deal with – kept out without any fuss or worry.
Judging by their first-half performance, the Blades are in for a long season. One win this campaign doesn’t bode well and they looked every bit a side lacking ideas or quality.
Compton had the first opening of the half, angling a volley wide.
And, while the Blades had possession, Pools were not to be breached. Organised and firm at the back, they had a solid midfield in front of them, who tackled and moved on loose balls without fuss.
The Blades fielded welltravelled striker Marlon King.
Aside from a constant battle with Austin – in which he regularly came out second best by some stretch – all he did was fire in a shot at Flinders from 30 yards that smacked of pure frustration.
And Pools could have sneaked a second on the counter attack. Poole was picked out by Walker and only a vital block tackle from Collins just past the halfway line prevented the striker getting away.
Flinders dealt with a couple of half chances as the game closed out, but he wasn’t under threat as Pools won at Bramall Lane for the second season in a row.
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