JOHN Hughes says his players embodied the “Never Say Die” motto of Hartlepool United during the closing stages of their breathtaking win over Leyton Orient.
Pools were trailing 1-0 with 88 minutes on the clock when they forced a right-wing corner.
Evan Horwood delivered and skipper Peter Hartley powered home a header to salvage what looked like a late point.
But Hughes’ men weren’t done there and, in the fourth minute of injury-time, substitute Luke James connected with a Steve Howard knock-down to fire into the bottom corner and send Victoria Park into raptures.
Embroidered on the club’s shirts are the words “Never Say Die”, and Hughes thought that was a fitting tribute to his players.
“It says Never Say Die on the shirts and that’s what it was all about,” said the Pools chief.
“We scored in the 94th minute – fantastic, brilliant.
“It was a fantastic strike on the half-volley and it’s so nice to see if fly in – I was off down the touchline like Barry Fry.
“Fair play to the guys for the spirit. The Vic was bouncing at the end, that’s what we want.
“I felt we played some nice football at times but lacked a killer instinct.
“But we kept going and I was delighted to see us turn it around so late on – what a feeling.”
Pools had toiled for the opening hour but the introduction of Howard, James and Andy Monkhouse changed the complexion of the game.
It was James who won the corner for Hartley’s goal and Monkhouse was involved in the build-up to the dramatic winner.
And Hughes admits his substitutions made a big difference.
“We have boys to come off the bench and play a part and they did that,” he said.
“We changed things around – big Stevie is 36 and he’s just come back from injury but he has a job to do.
“Their defenders didn’t want to see him come on – he challenges and puts them under pressure, it gives us a wee lift and his knock-down set up Luke’s goal.
“Andy was right in the mix as well and the three of them played a massive part.”
Hughes, though, was angered by the concession of the seventh-minute penalty which gave Orient the lead, Neil Austin adjudged to have handled deliberately when sliding to block a low cross.
“The only negative is the penalty we conceded,” he said, “It was a shocker and I asked for an explanation from the referee.
“Aussie’s hand was there in a natural position and he said the ball was going to an Orient player who might have scored.
“It was handball, but it’s all about interpretation.
“But we scrapped it out and got the win, which is the most important thing.”