Match Report: Hartlepool 0 Bradford City 0 (Bradford win 3-2 on penalties) (From The Advertiser Series)
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Pools’ missed chance
THREE missed penalties and an exit from the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy; Hartlepool United’s season shows no signs of improvement.
After 90 minutes of boredom, the tie went straight to a penalty shoot-out. And, such is Pools’ fortune right now, they hit the frame of the goal three times.
The final and decisive spot kick, taken by Evan Horwood, had to go in to keep Pools in it. The left-winger struck it firmly, but it hit keeper Jon McLaughlin, lifted up onto the bar, bounced off the line and to safety.
Neither referee Graham Salisbury, his assistant, Horwood or the players knew what had happened before the official signalled game over after a strange delay.
“It was a decent performance in parts, not as good as the last two, but yet again we lost. On penalties this time and hit the post three times in the shoot-out,’’ reflected boss Neale Cooper.
“We had chances, they did too and they are a decent side.
“When we started moving the ball quicker we did better. Yet again the young lads were excellent out there.
“There’s two young lads up front together, both on loan.
Their movement was good, they are honest and full of endeavour.
“Considering they have just met in the last couple of days they did OK tonight and we are grateful to both Sunderland and Middlesborough for allowing them to come to us.’’ Cooper was referring to Charlie Wyke, signed on loan from Boro yesterday, and Ryan Noble, who moved from Wearside last week.
Both were bright and lively and linked up well at times.
He added: “The back four we good, kept a clean sheet which is positive.
“We had two 18-year-olds in the back four and the goalkeeper...what a player he is.
“The last penalty hit the keeper, hit the bar, hit the line and stayed out. When things are hard, and they are just now, it goes against you.
“We have played well in the last two league games and lost, played OK tonight and lost. It’s hard for us.
“I thought my luck was back in when they missed their first penalty and then it ends up against us.’’ Simon Walton had a shot on target after ten minutes, keeper McLaughlin pushing it out. And that was about the sum total of Walton’s contribution.
The midfielder has been a huge disappointment since his summer move from Plymouth and, handed a chance last night, he was taken off after an hour with a stone cold reaction from his management team as he trudged off the park.
Antony Sweeney, omitted from the starting XI after a dip in form, replaced him and Cooper added: “When we needed a goal, it wouldn’t come. Tony has been low on confidence, and it was a bit of a relief for him not to be in.
“But he came on and looked better for it. It’s a confidence thing.
“You get an honest performance from him and it means a lot to him and he is disappointed in himself.
“But he came on and did well.’’ The Bantams included Ritchie Jones, formerly of Pools, and he went close in the second-half, denied by a firm Flinders stop.
Noble and Wyke linked up well for the latter to shoot across goal and keeper McLaughlin parried and then centre-half Andrew Davies, solid all night, got in the way of a Sweeney hooked effort.
Both player and Pools needed a bit of fortune in front of goal. But it’s not happening and there’s three tricky games to come.
Last night was viewed as a chance to get things going again. In the end it was another missed opportunity and another kick in the teeth.