Amond and Thomas get the goals but Carson's also a Hartlepool hero
Some moments have the ability to define a match.
Quite often it is goalscorers who grab the headlines. And I’m sure Nathan Thomas, whose exquisite chip won the match for Hartlepool United, and Padraig Amond, who netted his first brace in blue and while, can make a case to say it was their contribution that deserves the plaudits.
But Pools’ three-goal victory also belongs to the man who managed to keep it clean at the other end.
With the score at 2-0 Trevor Carson made a save late in the first-half that was straight out the top drawer, tipping over to deny what looked a certain goal for the hosts. Again, while this was of the highest quality, it was not the defining moment, nor was it even Carson’s best save on the day.
The keeper managed to outdo himself minutes after the restart. And it was on this moment Saturday’s result was decided.
With Grimsby dominating possession and play, a lifeline seemed inevitable.
Jake Carroll managed to block a goal-bound effort on the deck, but the ball fell kindly for the home side and with the rebound rifled back in at goal Carson pulled off the first of a pair of truly world class saves.
If the maiden reaction stop was excellent, few superlatives can describe just how good the second one was. Diving to his right Carson was again able to claw away what looked a certain Grimsby goal.
To this point, despite Pools’ two-goal lead, the game looked to be hanging in the balance. Just minutes later, though, Thomas was able to finish off the contest with his own act of magic.
Skipper-for-the-day Carson did not score the goals that won this, but his acrobatics and leadership in his team’s time of need were the catalyst for victory, which is Pools’ third away from home in League Two this season.
In the opening exchanges of this one, things didn’t look they were set to go to plan, with the Mariners dictating things early on.
But after a hesitant opening in which Pools were almost exclusively pinned into their own 18-yard box, on the break, as they so often do, they took the lead.
On 26 minutes, Lewis Alessandra cut in from the left and with his right struck a vicious effort that cannoned off the foot of the upright. And while the Town defenders stood around and watched Amond reacted quickest to beat the offside trap and slot home.
Nine minutes later, Pools got their second, with Amond doubling his tally for the season.
A floated cross from the right was met by the head of the Irishman and despite James McKeown’s attempts to keep it out it nestled into the back of the net for 2-0.
After the break Grimsby pressed to get back in it, with League Two top scorer Omar Bogle going close on two occasions.
Pools then had captain Carson to thank when he pulled off his outstanding double save.
Talisman Thomas then proceded to step up and steal the thunder of two-goal hero Amond, who had come back to haunt his former club.
Picking the ball up from Alessandra, who was again at the centre of the action for Pools off the right, Thomas took one look at the goalie and from the edge of the area dinked the ball over the top of McKeown and into the back of the net.
Hignett said in the week that Thomas possessed Premier League class.
Well, while many may have scoffed at that comparison, he certainly showed his ability with that finish.
And that was that, as the 22-year-old’s effort all but ended the game as a contest and Pools made it five unbeaten, this time without the late drama of the last week or so.
And while many will look to Thomas’ chip, which no doubt will win October’s goal of the month competition, as the moment where the balance shifted back into Pools’ favour, or Amond standing up and being counted with a quick-fire double to silence the doubters in the first-half, you need look no further than Carson’s heroics to work out just when this match was truly won and lost for Hignett’s men.
For me, Pools have a keeper who is international class. You could see that last season. And this one, too, week-in, week-out it’s plain to see.
His manager knows that, the fans know that but sadly, for Pools, anyway, so too does Michael O’Neill.
While Pools benefit from his remarkable match-winning saves for much of the season, he is that good they have to prepare for life without him. Now, by that I do not mean he is edging closer to the exit door, although should he keep producing stops like that I’m sure a few suitors might firm up an interest.
What I mean is that this international call will no doubt become a regular thing, especially when O’Neill gets to see just how good Carson is up close and personal.
Hartlepool’s loss v Sunderland Under-21s and Crawley Town next week is very much Northern Ireland’s gain.
And you can’t help but feel the loss of Carson could prove to be as big a blow as any for Hignett.
This may be a touch unfair on Adam Bartlett, who will no doubt do a decent role as deputy, but at this moment in time, Carson simply looks irreplaceable.