Pools analysis: Hartlepool United 4 Crewe Alexandra 0
If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire The A-Team.
And just when they needed them, the A-Team came to Hartlepool United’s rescue last night.
Lewis Alessandra scored twice while Padraig Amond emerged from the bench to bag the key goal in the crucial victory over Crewe.
Alessandra found for the first time since he scored in the 2-0 victory over Cheltenham Town in mid-November. His goals proved vital at the end of the first and second halves at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium, sandwiching Amond’s 12th goal of a memorable debut season.
Nathan Thomas, getting fitter and better by the game, put the icing on the cake with the fourth goal in stoppage time.
A four-goal caning may have been harsh on Crewe, who had the better of a first half when Pools could scarcely do anything right.
However, now is not the time to pour sympathy Alex’s way.This was a pivotal result for Pools.
Dave Jones’s side are still stuck in 22nd place, but they are now six points above the relegation zone. And the dramatic events of last night provided a major swing in the goal difference column.
While Pools were registering their first 4-0 home romp since Bristol Rovers were taken apart by Colin Cooper’s side in March 2014, second bottom side Leyton Orient were losing 4-1 up the A1 at Stevenage.
The Pools goal difference is now minus 15 with the O’s on minus 19.
Last night could not have gone any better.
Not that you would ever have imagined it on the evidence of the first half.
Having watched a nervous-looking Pools struggle their way through 44 minutes, 40 seconds, the side required more than the A-Team , they looked like needing two teams to beat a superior Crewe side.
There had been a shot or three from Thomas, but nothing to scare the away keeper, while good defensive work by Oliver Turton stopped Louis Rooney getting on the end of Nicky Featherstone’s neat lob into the box.
But that had been as good as it got for Pools – all the real goal threats came from Crewe who gratefully accepted the gifts of possession from the hosts, and there was no shortage of them.
The Railwaymen enjoyed steaming forward on the counter-attack at every possible opportunity and in Alex Kiwomya, on the left of their front three, they had a man of real pace.
He was stopped by tremendous tackles by Brad Walker, superb again at the back, and young Kenton Richardson, who had his best game to date, excelling in defence and attack.
But there were chances, George Cooper shooting straight at Joe Fryer, James Jones pulling a shot badly wide when a goal looked certain, with Jordan Bowery striking the keeper’s right stick.
Having struggled to find any sort of rhythm then came the turning point just seconds from the interval.Thomas released Rhys Oates down the left and while the cross was a little scuffed, Crewe skipper George Ray failed to clear nand the alert Alessandra turned to score from 12 yards.
The goal clearly pumped litres of confidence through the veins as Thomas came within a whisker of making it 2-0 immediately after the re-start from his right foot.
Alex remained a threat, George Ray’s free header going went just wide, while Fryer pulled off a strong save to his right from Bowery’s shot from the edge of the box.
Pools needed a second goal and Amond delivered it 19 minutes from time. Oates again did well in the build-up but the leading scorer display terrific skill to beat the keeper and then keep his cool to roll the ball home from a narrow angle.
At 2-0 Pools were favourites but not home and dry – enter Fryer.
Bowery got in on goal in the 76th minute but the on-loan Boro keeper produced a magnificent save low to his left.
An Alex goal at that stage could have proven costly, but Pools refused to buckle with the whole side putting their bodies on the line, Oates making one strong late block from sub Callum Ainley.
But Pools were not finished and added the third five minute from the end. Richardson showed delightful skill down the right to beat his marker and put in a great cross. Thomas and Oates had shots blocked but Alessandra was in the perfect position to take advantage and find the net from eight yards.
Surely there wasn’t time for a fourth? Of course there was, Thomas making it two goals in two games in the first minute of stoppage time.
The attacker skinned the full-back down the by-line and with the keeper seemingly covering the goal at his near post, finding the net looked impossible only for Thomas to the ball through the goalie’s legs. What a way to end the night.