Hartlepool Utd reserves defeat Rotherham Utd

Hartlepool United reserves V Rotherham reserves at Bedford Terrace.

Hartlepool United reserves V Rotherham reserves at Bedford Terrace.

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IT was hardly conducive to entertainment – howling winds, icy temperatures and a pitch better suited to rearing cattle.

But somehow, in large part thanks to the skill of Luke James, these two sides served up an enjoyable contest, competitive until the very last kick.

And so it was that John Hewitson’s men emerged with victory, a narrow triumph which was probably deserved despite the chances created by both teams in what was a tenacious affair.

Josh Rowbotham and James were the home scorers at Billingham Town’s Bedford Terrace, although after establishing a two-goal lead Pools were made to sweat it out during the final half hour after Kieran Agard netted for The Millers.

And a happy Hewitson told SportMail: “It was competitive.

“We knew that the conditions would play a part but both teams dealt with it well.
“We weathered an early storm and then managed to get ourselves in front – it was an excellently-worked goal between Lewis (Hawkins) who crossed for Josh to head in.

“Luke got a good goal after half-time but credit to them they worked themselves back into it and it was end-to-end after that.

“We had chances to make it comfortable but then they had chances to equalise, so I think it was a decent game in the end.”

Hewitson included seven players with first-team experience, including weekend goal hero Greg Rutherford who bagged in the 3-1 win at Portsmouth.

And he went on: “I was happy with the way we adapted to the conditions and I think we probably deserved the win.

“We expect them to be able to graft their socks off and never give up and they did that.

“They did the stuff people don’t normally enjoy doing.

“It would have been better had we taken our chances, but it was pleasing on the whole.”

The outstanding James was first to threaten as he burst through the wind but his 20-yard drive fell foul of the elements and the gales took the sting out of the shot, Tony Thompson gathering in the visiting goal.

At the other end, however, Rotherham sought to take advantage of the tail wind and Daniel Rowe fired narrowly over from an outlandish distance of 35 yards.

James was determined to battle against the conditions and he scurried beyond two defenders before curling wide on 22 minutes.

But Pools did find a breakthrough five minutes later with James again instrumental.

His quick feet and short roll presented Hawkins with the angle to cross from the right and he landed a ball on the forehead of Rowbotham who turned in from six yards.

Pools extended their lead within two minutes of the second half as James, this time with the wind at his back, raced clear of a labouring rearguard and slotted beneath Thompson from 12 yards.

It was a classy finish in keeping with his display.

But just 60 seconds later the visitors halved arrears as Agard hammered through the swirling, Teesside air and into top corner from 20 yards.

Nathan Luscombe sought to restore the two-goal cushion with a surging run from deep on the hour mark but his shot caught the gusts and flew clear of the crossbar.

Agard went in search of his second 20 minutes from time and was unlucky to flash a 10-yard header onto the roof of Adam McHugh’s goal after Courtney Cameron had centred from the left.

Rutherford had the chance to add to his first senior strike when faced with just Thompson to beat from 12 yards but his rising shot was stopped and held the keeper.

The 18-year-old did well to fashion another opening for himself soon after when robbing centre-back Reece Lucas on the touchline but his eventual shot, having cut inside the recovering Dominic Hart, was shovelled around the post by Thompson.

But Pools had Darren Holden to thank for their victory when, in the 88th minute, he scrambled into position on the goal-line to hack clear after Daniel Kearns had turned on target amid a crowded penalty box.

Pools: McHugh, Brown, Holden, Rowbotham, Buddle, Johnson, Boagey (Hope 54), Hawkins, Rutherford, Luscombe, James. Subs n/u: Tuck, Green, Walker, Scott.

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