Hartlepool United’s young footballers won praise from Youth Development manager John Hewitson after taking Pools through to the second round of the Durham Challenge Cup.
And Pools had to do it the hard way at Darlington Railway Athletic, fighting back from an early home goal to win 4-2 last night.
Dylan Elliott was the hero with a second-half hat-trick at Brinkburn Road, but Hewitson was simply thrilled with the way Pools responded from Tuesday’s mauling by Notts County.
The reserve side lost 10-2 to the Magpies at Billingham, but 30 hours later the new-look side came up trumps in the cup.
“I’m over the moon with the players,” said Hewitson.
“I was really pleased by the way we have come back.
“What happened on Tuesday can’t happen again but the players have put on a really good show.
“While it was a different set of players from the Notts County game, I think it was good for the club to have a game so soon afterwards.”
When RA took the lead from a superbly-executed free-kick, Hewitson and coach Ian McGuckin could have been forgiven for thinking ‘here we go again’.
But not on this occasion as Pools put together some good football against the in-form Ebac Northern League Second Division outfit.
Elliott had the first Pools crack at goal, but it was high and wide while Jordan Jewson turned smartly and brought a good save from the RA keeper.
Ebby Nelson-Addy had a go from a free-kick but it did not trouble the home keeper but the midfielder was not to be denied after the break.
He was brought down for a penalty and got up to put the spot-kick away to make it 1-1.
And Pools were in front when Fraser Briggs put the ball in the box for Elliott to finish.
Pools went close to a third when Kieran Green and Elliott combined to set up Jewson, only for his effort to hit the post.
Darlington RA equalised but Elliott soon took charge of the tie.
Green’s great pass found him on the right and the Blackhall teenager thumped his shot into the top corner.
At the other end, James Dawson made a tremendous save to keep Pools 3-2 up and that stop was to prove crucial.
Jack Blackford played in a perfect ball for Elliott to complete his hat-trick and make it 4-2.
It was a great team effort by a young Pools side, with Nelson-Addy and Green, the only two ‘senior’ men earning praise from Hewitson.
“They showed what great characters they are,” said the Youth Development boss. “They gave us energy and displayed the right example.”
But it was two of the youth team stars who really caught the eye.
“I was really pleased with Ethan Wood,” said Hewitson. “He’s not long left school but he was terrific in the centre of midfield.
“Dylan’s strike for the first goal was different class, shooting from outside the box with his shot hitting the bar and bouncing down over the line.
“His other two were good opportunist goals inside the box.
“But it wasn’t just about his goals, his all-round play was fabulous.”
He added: “It was a hard game for our lads.
“The first half was a bit edgy but I was over the moon with us in the second.
“Darlington RA aame out with a lot of energy and enthusiasm with it being a cup-tie against Hartlepool.
“I think it was a bit intimidating for the young lads and when we conceded a free-kick and they scored from it I think it knocked the stuffing out of us a bit.
“But we started to play the better football and as the game went on there was only going to be one winner.”