Barnet 3-2 Hartlepool United: Pools beaten on National League return despite late fightback

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Hartlepool United’s return to the National League ended with an all too familiar feeling as they were beaten 3-2 at Barnet.

Hartlepool made the scoreline more respectable than it might have been after the Bees raced into a three goal lead with little over an hour gone.

Adebola Oluwo was credited with the opening goal midway through the first half when bundling in from close range after Pools failed to deal with a quick free kick, before former striker Nicke Kabamba doubled the lead 10 minutes into the second half with a contentious goal.

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Kabamba was ruled to have headed in at the back post despite the protests of Hartlepool players and goalkeeper Joel Dixon that the ball had not crossed the line.

Adebola Oluwo takes the credit as Barnet open the scoring against Hartlepool United. Picture by FRANK REIDAdebola Oluwo takes the credit as Barnet open the scoring against Hartlepool United. Picture by FRANK REID
Adebola Oluwo takes the credit as Barnet open the scoring against Hartlepool United. Picture by FRANK REID

But Pools found themselves even further behind when Danny Collinge added a third soon after.

John Askey’s side looked beaten by that point before staging a late fightback with goals from Jake Hastie and Josh Umerah.

Hastie slotted home with five minutes to go before winning a penalty five minutes into stoppage time.

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And although the former Rangers winger missed from 12-yards, Umerah would eventually turn home.

But Pools were unable to find what would have been an unlikely third as they started life back in the National League with a defeat.

It’s not where they wanted to be, but two-years on from escaping the National League with that memorable day in Bristol, the National League is where Hartlepool found themselves once again to start the new season and a trip to the Hive to face a Barnet side who would arguably give Askey a flavour of where his squad is at and what their prospects could be this year.

The Bees finished fifth in the league last year which would suggest a stern test awaited Pools in North London.

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Askey handed five of his summer recruits their first Hartlepool starts.

Perhaps the biggest decision for Askey came in goal as he made the decision between Dixon and Pete Jameson.

Despite both sharing game time in pre-season it was former Sunderland youngster Dixon who was given the nod with those in front of him a little more expected.

Doncaster Rovers loanee Charlie Seaman started at right wing-back with Emmanuel Onariase anchoring a central defensive three.

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Chris Wreh, celebrating his birthday, was handed a place in attack with Emmanuel Dieseruvwe missing through suspension, whilst Anthony Mancini started in midfield.

The signings, coupled with a decent pre-season, and the fact Askey remains the man in the dug-out for the National League charge, meant there was cautious optimism heading south for the new season.

And those new signings all got in on the action early at the Hive as Pools enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening exchanges, despite not creating anything to really test Laurie Walker in the Bees goal – Seaman’s left footed strike from range about all Askey’s side could muster from the opening 20 minutes.

And with Pools not capitalising on their early possession, Dean Brennan’s side were able to edge back into things with a number of set pieces causing concern among the Hartlepool defence.

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Ben Coker’s low corner was narrowly diverted wide of the near post before the home side took the lead midway through the first half.

Mancini was penalised for a foul which allowed Dale Gorman to clip a quick free kick over the Hartlepool wall into the path of Harry Pritchard, who had escaped his marker, with his strike at goal squirming under Dixon to trickle towards goal where a goalmouth scramble ensued.

Oluwo and Kabamba were both involved as Onariase tried in vain to clear his lines before the ball found its way in – Oluwo taking the plaudits from his team-mates – to give Hartlepool that sinking feeling.

The mood was almost lifted within an instant as Pools came close to a quick equaliser, first through Tom Crawford who tested Walker from distance, before Mancini was denied by Walker again with the follow-up as Umerah then saw a third attempt deflect wide.

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From the resulting corner the ball fell at the feet of Crawford once more, but the midfielder was unable to generate enough power to trouble Walker who saved low to his right.

Set pieces continued to plague Hartlepool as Kabamba headed over before Coker curled a free kick just over the bar from the angle of the area.

Pools then had Dixon to thank for going in only one behind at the break after Kabamba was able to turn Edon Pruti all too easily on halfway and advance towards goal and size up the bottom corner, only for Pools’ new No.1 to push it wide of the post.

Askey refrained from making any changes at the break and was almost rewarded for his decision after Umerah forced a corner which saw Onariase glance just wide.

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But that was about as good as it got as Pools soon found themselves further behind.

A corner, again, caused Hartlepool problems at the back before being fired back in from the right to find Kabamba, who was unmarked at the back post, and he was able to guide his header on target and beat Dixon, with the assistant on the far side flagging to signal the ball had crossed the line despite the Hartlepool protests.

Reece Hall-Johnson almost added a third from the restart when finding space on the right before flashing wide.

But Pools weren’t as fortunate just after the hour when Irdis Kanu’s cross was turned in by Collinge to, seemingly, take things away from Askey’s side – Dixon, for a third time, getting something on it.

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Crawford fizzed wide from a rare Pools attack before Askey’s side made a game of it in the closing stages.

Substitute Hastie controlled well from a defensive clearance to break clear of the Barnet back line before slotting home well to at least give the travelling 537 something to cheer about.

But with referee Jamie O’Connor signalling 10 minutes of additional time, Pools edged closer to an unlikely point when Haste went down in the area and was awarded a penalty.

The Scotsman picked himself up to take the spot kick himself which Walker expertly denied with a save to his left, only for Umerah to fire in the rebound through a crowd of bodies.

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But despite O’Connor not blowing his full-time whistle until well after five o’clock, Askey’s side were unable to find what would have been an unlikely equaliser as their return to the National League started with a hugely disappointing defeat.

Barnet XI: Walker, Hall-Johnson (Wynter ‘88), Coker, Collinge, Okimo (Potter ‘61), Gorman © (Barratt ‘67), Kabamba, Kanu, Pritchard, Oluwo, Brunt

Subs: Senior, Stead

Hartlepool United XI: Dixon, Seaman (Grey ‘59), Dodds, Onariase, Pruti, Ferguson ©, Crawford, Mancini, Cooke, Wreh (Hastie ‘70), Umerah

Subs: Jameson, Lacey, Dolan

Referee: Jamie O’Connor

Attendance: 1,909 (537 Hartlepool)

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