Richard Mennear’s match analysis: Not pretty but Hartlepool get job done

Jonathan Franks celebrates the second of his two goals against East Thurrock United. Picture by FRANK REID
Jonathan Franks celebrates the second of his two goals against East Thurrock United. Picture by FRANK REID

AT the end, Paul Murray got his team together in the centre circle for a post-match celebratory huddle.

It didn’t matter that they’d missed a hatful of chances against non-league opposition or that you couldn’t tell there were three leagues between the two sides.

Jonathan Franks celebrates the first of his two goals against East Thurrock United. Picture by FRANK REID

Jonathan Franks celebrates the first of his two goals against East Thurrock United. Picture by FRANK REID

Nor that it was pretty or particularly entertaining.

What mattered was that Pools got the job done, actually managed to win a match and have progressed into the second round of the FA Cup.

Beforehand Pools had tasted victory just three times, an awful record and the reason why they prop up the Football League. Any victory will be cherished but the scoreline should have been far greater.

A combination of the outstanding East Thurrock keeper David Hughes – named man of the match by the Pools sponsors – and awful finishing from the forwards resulted in it being a nervy and cagey 2-0 win.

The victory wasn’t secured until Jonathan Franks – who could and should have scored five – nodded home his second in the 86th minute.

John Coventry’s Ryman Premier League side earned themselves a lot of credit, especially electrician Hughes who should be good with his hands, and their night out in Newcastle afterwards.

This is the FA Cup and shock results happen all the time – just ask Exeter City who were beaten by Warrington Town Friday night.

It was no surprise the Pools camp spoke of their relief that they had not slipped on a similar banana skin.

Instead, Murray secured his first win as a manager, the club pocketed £18,000 in prize money and the supporters can look forward to tonight hoping for a decent draw to give Pools the best possible chance of making it into the potentially- lucrative third round.

Murray is also keen for his players to use the confidence gained from the last two home matches to kick-start their League Two campaign.

The FA Cup is a nice distraction but the club’s bread and butter is, of course, staying in the Football League.

Murray has impressed in his first few weeks, bringing in three new players – Sidney Schmeltz, Nicky Featherstone and Scott Fenwick – and he is keen to add three more.

They are all needed if Pools are to start climbing Sky Bet League Two.

Another new forward especially, if Saturday’s wayward finishing is anything to go by. No doubt Fenwick and on-loan Charlie Wyke will come into the starting line-up for the trip to Southend United.

But for now, Pools can reflect on a job well done as they look forward to finding out who they face next.

Two players unlikely to be allowed to play in the next round are on-loan duo Wyke, from Middlesbrough, and Sunderland defender Scott Harrison – the pair both prevented from playing on Saturday.

That meant Murray was forced into re-jigging his starting line-up, with Dan Jones in at left-back and Neil Austin partnering Sam Collins.

Dutch winger Schmeltz was handed his full debut, while Jordan Richards started on the right-wing.

After a poignant minute’s silence held in recognition of Remembrance weekend, there was a lively start to proceedings and the Rocks were inches from scoring first.

In the 10th minute, Mitchell Gilbey’s well-hit shot was touched onto the upright by diving Scott Flinders’ to deny the seventh tier side a surprise lead.

It was a huge let-off. But credit to Pools they hit straight back and Hughes was forced into his first save of the day, denying Franks from close range.

The opening stages were breathless but play finally settled. Pools were unable to break through the Rocks defence and the longer the game went on, the more Coventry’s men grew in confidence.

Defender Paul Goodacre caused Flinders problems with a shot from 35-yards, the stopper just about doing enough.

The breakthrough came in the 32nd minute and it was sublime.

Michael Duckworth played in Franks on the half-way line, he burst forward ignoring shouts from Schmeltz to pass before unleashing an unstoppable fizzing shot past Hughes into the bottom left-hand corner from 25-yards.

The lead should have been far more comfortable at the break but Hughes twice denied Marlon Harewood with two smart saves in the 40th minute, the first from a well-struck shot from the edge of the area and then from a close- range header.

The unsung hero for Pools was Nicky Featherstone, who dictated play all match. Featherstone – who looked four years younger after shaving off his long beard –rarely put a foot wrong.

He tested Hughes shortly after the re-start, before Brad Walker went within inches of doubling the lead, his controlled shot going inches over from 30-yards.

Moments later, Walker was again involved, playing in Duckworth but his effort was saved.

Then it all started to get a bit cagey, with the supporters growing increasingly restless.

Rocks dangerman Sam Higgins – who Austin and Collins kept quiet in the main – bustled his way through but his low shot was comfortably saved. Pools needed another to calm the nerves but the second-half was a struggle.

That was until the 79th minute, when Harewood played in Franks who had the goal gaping.

But that man Hughes somehow got across to deny the forward what looked a certain goal.

Thankfully, Franks redeemed himself.

The tension-relieving second finally came in the 86th minute, Harewood’s cross was spilled by Hughes – his only mistake – and Franks nodded the ball in on the line.

If it wasn’t for Hughes, who made further saves from Franks and Harewood, the margin could have been far higher but a win nonetheless.

A few more in the league would be nice.