Five-goal thriller with Pools on top
Form is a wonderful thing and Pools had plenty of it.
But this was a game of cat and mouse and certainly not a one-sided affair. Port Vale had most of the early pressure and a lot of it through their 19-year-old forward Alex Donald. He was proving dangerous on the right and he set up Cullerton who drove over the top from inside the penalty area.
Fellow forward Chapman was influential yet the Pools goal was rarely threatened. Instead, Pools began to get more into the game.
Phythian and Blowman went close for the visitors before Pools opened the scoring on 33 minutes. Simpkins made room for Hepplewhite on the left. The wing half crossed for Bell who headed home just inside the post.
Two minutes later, Port Vale were level when Cullerton slipped a square ball to Chapman and he drove home an 18-yard shot which never left the ground.
And yet, just six minutes after that, Pools were back in front. This time, it was Phythian who picked up a loose ball in the centre circle and put a 30-yard ball through for Peter Blowman to chase.
Despite having the goalkeeper and a defender to beat, he managed it at the second attempt from 10 yards.
The half time whistle went to end a frenetic 45 minutes.
But there was no let-up to the pace in the second half and it was Vale who started the better.
With only 48 minutes on the clock, Chapman grabbed his second when Sproson headed down for him to finish the move.
Yet almost straight from the re-start, Pools restored their advantage. Simpkins latched on to a Phythian cross and, with lots of time to spare, smashed the ball in from 10 yards.
It wasn’t exactly ideal conditions for a match with the mist rapidly descending on the pitch and yet, these two sides were serving up a treat for the fans - those that could see the action, that is.
At one point, it became so bad that visiting fans could not see any of the action in the Pools goalmouth.
Despite all that, Gus McLean’s team were coping well with any opposition attacks and comfortably kept the ball out, while looking the more likely to score themselves in the closing stages.
Port Vale: Sharratt, Miles, Wilson, James, Boulton, Sproson, Donald, Cullerton, Morris, Chapman, Mahon; Sub: Poole.
Hartlepools Utd: Smith, Bircumshaw, Drysdale, Parry, Gill, Hepplewhite, Phythian, Blowman, Simpkins, Bell, Wright. Sub; Somers.
Referee: P.R. Walter (Bridgewater).