HARTLEPOOL United fought valiantly with 10 men but in the end exited the Carling Cup following a penalty shootout defeat against Sheffield United.
Midfield ace Antony Sweeney had only just cancelled out Stephen Quinn’s opener when, with Pools having used all of their substitutes, he limped from the action with a groin problem four minutes from time.
The hosts battled through for another 35 minutes only to crash at the first-round stage after Colin Nish and skipper Sam Collins missed from 12 yards during the shootout,
After a dealyed start because of a power failure, it was Danny Wilson’s side who found the breakthrough just one minute shy of the half-hour mark following an incisive breakaway.
Pools were weak in protecting possession in the United defensive quarter and a swift counter-attack was sprung with debutant Nathaniel Mendez-Laing taking up the charge down the left flank.
The on-loan Wolves forward swept a teasing delivery into the area where Quinn climbed between two blue-and-white shirts to nod into the bottom corner.
With the power generator beginning to motor back into action so too did the home side as they went in search of parity, Adam Boyd wriggling free of Neill Collins inside the area only to stab wide on 34 minutes.
Mendez-Laing was making quite an impression in his first outing and the teenager swept United upfield in pursuit of a second just before the break.
Richard Cresswell kept stride with his new team-mate and was duly located as he bound into the penalty area.
The striker directed low on goal but Flinders read his intention and palmed around his upright.
The last act of Mendez-Laing before his withdrawal was to sting the palms of Scott Flinders with a close-range strike on 61 minutes.
The passing of that chance was to prove significant and, following the introduction of summer signings James Poole and Nathan Luscombe, Mick Wadsworth’s men began to work their way back into the tie.
The home side eventually drew level 10 minutes from time, Luscombe dropping a ball the wrong side of a static Harry Maguire and Collins and midfielder Tony Sweeney steamed in to volley home.
Sweeney retired clutching a groin soon after but United failed to find a way through Pools’ 10 men in the remaining minutes of normal time, the closest they came a Cresswell header, from Matthew Lowton’s centre, which looped onto the roof of the net.
And so it was to penalty kicks where, after Nish and Collins had missed for Pools, Danny Philliskirk who kept his cool to take the headlines.
Read a full report and reaction in Wednesday’s Mail ,.,