RICHARD MENNEAR’S MATCH ANALYSIS: Exeter 1 Pools 2

Charlie Wyke celebrates his goal against Exeter City. Picture by FRANK REID

Charlie Wyke celebrates his goal against Exeter City. Picture by FRANK REID

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SAM Collins will hopefully have slept a little better these last two nights after the impressive win over Exeter City.

The caretaker boss admitted afterwards he has been having sleepless nights since taking over on a temporary basis.

He wasn’t the only one.

This time last week Hartlepool United were bottom of the Football League, the manager had just resigned and there was despair on the terraces.

Fast forward seven days and there is at last, a little optimism in the air.

Incredible what a win will do, and a thoroughly deserved win too, against an Exeter City side that had won their previous four matches in Sky Bet League Two.

St James Park is a happy hunting ground for Pools in recent years, including last year’s 3-0 victory this time last year.

Is this a turning point in the season?

Far too early to say on that score. The win was a good start but just a start.

With no permanent new manager in place this is going to be the squad for the foreseeable future and they have to produce similar performances every week.

A tough ask as hope and expectation levels have risen.

But one thing is for certain, Collins is backing the ‘kids’ to do the business for him.

Dan Jones impressed again while Lewis Hawkins, on the fringes of the first team for so long, excelled with a hand in both goals.

It is testament to Collins for giving youth a chance as Pools have looked more resilient and eager to close play down and bright, energetic and creative going forward.

Some of the senior pros, like Scott Flinders, Neil Austin and Tommy Miller, also deserve a lot of credit for their performances this week and there is a nice blend of youth and experience.

Will Collins be given a shot as manager until the end of the season?

He has done his chances no harm and is clearly loving the role and responsibility.

The 37-year-old talks well and has the respect of the players and demands 100 per cent hard work and effort from them. All of the time.

Tellingly, experienced striker Marlon Harewood was once again dropped, not even making the bench.

There was also no sub keeper on the bench, on-loan Newcastle United stopper Freddie Woodman on international duty in Luxembourg with England U19s.

The first opening fell to the injury-hit home side, but Matt Grimes’ low free-kick was safely gathered by captain Flinders.

Pools, who had started well, almost took the lead in the 11th minute.

Left-back Jones fizzed in a 25-yard piledriver only for keeper Christy Pym to palm it away for a corner.

From that corner, Jones then went even closer, hitting the crossbar with a header before Bates’ shot was blocked.

Collins, again prowling and barking orders from the edge of his technical area, had his head in his hands as he knew it was a glorious chance.

The impressive Grimes had a sight of goal 20 minutes in but blasted his shot high over the bar from 25-yards out as the Grecians grew in confidence.

That man again Grimes tested Flinders from distance but the diving Pools stopper was equal to it.

There was a heart in mouth moment 10 minutes before the break when a hesitant Flinders was late out of his area before eventually kicking the ball away from the onrushing Scott Bennett.

Flinders looked comfortable wearing the captain’s armband, vocal and well-organised at the back he was constantly encouraging the defence.

Something Matthew Bates, playing in midfield, has been criticised for in the past for being too quiet.

Within a minute of the re-start Flinders had to get down low to comfortably save a header from Jimmy Keohane who had found space.

But it was Pools that drew first blood in the 49th minute.

Patient Poolies had waited more than 400 minutes since their last league goal but it was worth the wait.

Michael Duckworth broke free down the right-hand side and his deep cross was met by Woods 10-yards out who volleyed his first goal for the club past Pym.

It should have been 2-0 soon after – lively Hawkins with a smart volley past the keeper but it bounced off Matt Oakley’s knee on the line and back into Pym’s hands.

In the 66th minute it was two, thanks to a fantastic team goal.

Wyke and Hawkins combining superbly on the right-hand side of the penalty area, clever one-twos to bamboozle the home defence.

The club’s top scorer then added to his tally with a cool left-footed finish just inside the area.

Collins’ side had further chances to add to their tally, Wyke forcing the keeper into a full-stretch save to tip the ball over, while Hawkins also unleashed a similar shot over the bar.

A nervy finale was guaranteed when Paul Tisdale’s Exeter pulled one back in the 80th minute.

Christian Ribeiro with the header on the line after Flinders had initially saved Jimmy Keohane’s header.

Flinders then came up with a finger-tip save to deny sub David Noble in the 89th minute, while Bennett headed over the bar from six-yards out in injury time.

Pools could have made life more comfortable when Woods danced his way free before seeing his effort well saved by Pym.

Referee Darren Sheldrake finally blew after five minutes of added-on time to a huge collective sigh of relief from the Pools bench and the 93 travelling supporters.

The win was nothing more than Pools deserved but the key now will be building on it.

This cannot just be a flash in the pan.