IT was not what Hartlepool United’s youth team had planned.
A defeat in the FA Youth Cup third round against Huddersfield Town is nothing to be ashamed about – John Hewitson’s men had done remarkably well to reach the stage in the first place.
Yet the performance at Victoria Park is what the hurt the most.
“You’re better than that, Brad” came the cry from Hewitson in reference to a misplaced pass from the otherwise solid Brad Walker.
Hewitson’s remarks could be applied to the entire team, for this set of footballers have already shown this season that they have bright futures in the game.
Last night, however, gone was the attacking purpose.
Gone was the neat passing. And gone was the belief.
It left only scraps for strikers Luke James and Zak Boagey to nibble on and there was minimal cohesion between defence and attack and too many rushed clearances and passes.
When Huddersfield’s Kedesh Goddard beat Keelan Nellis in the air and then struck beyond Mark Foden from the right with three minutes on the clock, all confidence seemed to drain from Pools.
One soon became two when Joe Wilkinson converted after Foden spilled a catch.
Pools did have chances of their own, Daniel Jones striking wide before hitting a vicious volley at Edward Wilczynski.
Boagey shot straight at Wilczynski, as did Lewis Green before Jones tried his fortune again.
Unfortunately, these were brief respites for Pools as the magnificent Duance Holmes thumped in a 25-yard strike that put the Terriers three-up on the cusp of half-time.
Hewitson later admitted that Holmes’ great finish had killed the tie. However, Pools were not going to roll over and surrender – after all, stranger things have happened in the FA Cup.
James, who was marked tightly throughout, wrestled his way past William Boyle but could only hit the side-netting, while Boagey ran well but ballooned a shot over.
Huddersfield searched for another goal, pushing down the right-hand side and delivering a succession of balls into the box.
Jake Charles later prompted a low save from Foden.
Aaron Brown and Dan Jones had their compasses pointed north from their full-back positions, punting the ball forward to blue and white shirts.
But Pools could neither the hold the ball up or conjure up opportunities.
The cup run had previously brought delight with the wins against Fleetwood and Lincoln.
Last night, sadly, it brought despair and huge disappointment.
Pools: Foden, Brown, Walker, Nearney, Turner (Mitchinson, 50); Boagey (Boagey, 81), Walker, Green, Harbottle (Bridges, 67), Jones; James.
Subs not used: Smith, Green
Huddersfield: Wilczynski, Briggs, Boyle, Wilkinson, Starkey; Goddard, Morton (Horsfall, 88), Holmes, Charles; Mullin (Cox, 87), Conway Subs not used: Pells, Guthrie, Atkinson