Crawley Town 0-2 Hartlepool United: A significant return, away day hoodoo and pitch concerns - the key takeaways from Broadfield Stadium success

Hartlepool United ended their search for a first away win of the season with victory over Crawley Town.
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It was a significant result for Keith Curle’s side as they moved out of the bottom two and provided the perfect response to their crushing defeat against Stockport County.

Rollin Menayese headed his first goal for the club before Travis Johnson turned into his own net as Pools shut out Matthew Etherington’s side to also claim a long overdue clean sheet.

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And here are some of the key talking points from a big night on the road.

Temperatures dropped below zero ahead of Hartlepool United's League Two fixture with Crawley Town. (Credit: Tom West | MI News)Temperatures dropped below zero ahead of Hartlepool United's League Two fixture with Crawley Town. (Credit: Tom West | MI News)
Temperatures dropped below zero ahead of Hartlepool United's League Two fixture with Crawley Town. (Credit: Tom West | MI News)

Pitch concerns ahead of Crawley Town v Hartlepool United

Had the decision for Hartlepool’s fixture with Crawley been down to a simple eye test then we would all be re-scheduling our diaries for another trip to West Sussex as the Broadfield Stadium pitch looked as though it would fall victim to the nationwide freeze.

Upon their arrival, officials and both sets of players could be seen testing out the surface as the temperatures dropped to minus two ahead of kick-off before falling further by the end of the evening.

But Hartlepool boss Curle was adamant the fixture would go ahead having sent assistant Colin West in advance, with the Pools boss desperate for the opportunity for his side to put on a strong performance following the 5-0 defeat against Stockport.

Jamie Sterry made his long-awaited return for Hartlepool United in the win over Crawley Town. (Credit: Tom West | MI News)Jamie Sterry made his long-awaited return for Hartlepool United in the win over Crawley Town. (Credit: Tom West | MI News)
Jamie Sterry made his long-awaited return for Hartlepool United in the win over Crawley Town. (Credit: Tom West | MI News)
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“I sent Colin down independently and he came to the ground early to make sure everything was alright so we had the opportunity of speaking to the referee and getting into the referee's ear out on the grass,” said Curle.

“We’ve come down and we knew we needed a performance out of the players, so we needed the game on.”

Crawley Town forced into double change as ex-Carlisle United and Sunderland stars are replaced

Although Hartlepool controlled large periods of the game, the impact of Crawley’s enforced double substitution inside the opening 15 minutes no doubt played its part.

Reghan Tumilty was preferred at left wing-back to Brody Paterson for Hartlepool United's win over Crawley Town. (Credit: Tom West | MI News)Reghan Tumilty was preferred at left wing-back to Brody Paterson for Hartlepool United's win over Crawley Town. (Credit: Tom West | MI News)
Reghan Tumilty was preferred at left wing-back to Brody Paterson for Hartlepool United's win over Crawley Town. (Credit: Tom West | MI News)

Reds talisman Ashley Nadesan could be seen down off the ball during a Hartlepool attack which would also see Joel Lynch struggle having cleared his lines. Both injuries appeared fairly innocuous but both would be required to leave the field, first Nadesan before Lynch would gingerly make his was to the sideline.

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Nadesan going off saw Ethertington lose his top goalscorer while losing Lynch meant he was losing his captain. In their places came Jayden Davis and Harry Ransom with Etherington forced to switch things up.

To their credit, Hartlepool used that inconvenience to their advantage to gain a foothold in the game with Davis, in particular, finding it difficult to get the better of the returning Jamie Sterry.

The importance of Jamie Sterry’s Hartlepool United return

To that point, the return of Sterry should not be underestimated.

The 27-year-old has endured a difficult season with injuries but completed the full 90 minutes on his return and was excellent throughout.

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In challenging conditions and up against the likes of Nadesan, Davis and Liverpool loanee James Balazigi, the full-back was tested but came through with flying colours.

But for one untimely slip in the first half, where Nadesan was able to pick out Balazigi who fired over, Sterry had the measure of the opposition.

Nick Tsaroulla is another who came forward from left-back to test Sterry, but is another who was dealt with well by the ex-Newcastle United defender.

But it was not only in defence Sterry demonstrated his class as he provided a good outlet on the right side of the pitch in attack.

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The defender pulled an excellent crossfield pass out of the air from Callum Cooke, skipping inside of Tsaroulla, before firing at goal for the game’s first effort on target.

Sterry had more touches than any Hartlepool player and delivered the second most passes which highlights how significant a role he played in the win.

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Strong Hartlepool United performances

But it wasn’t just Sterry who performed well, which will delight Curle, as most in a blue and white shirt put in strong displays.

The centre-back trio of Menayese, Euan Murray and David Ferguson were solid and brave throughout, limiting Crawley to just a solitary effort on target which came in second half stoppage time.

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Reghan Tumilty, asked to do a job at left wing-back, produced a tireless effort and was unfortunate himself not to score.

The midfield trio of Mohamad Sylla, Cooke and captain Nicky Featherstone were much improved in the centre of the field than against Stockport, not allowing Crawley to control things from that area of the pitch or be overrun - Sylla, in particular, consistent in his tackles attempted, interceptions and blocks, while all three saw a similar number of touches in the game.

Hartlepool United’s awayday hoodoo

It culminated in what were a huge three points for Hartlepool. Three points which moves them out of the bottom three and snaps their away day hoodoo.

Not since March’s 3-2 win over Newport County have Pools tasted success on their travels - a run of 14 games which saw just four draws and 10 defeats.

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It’s a result which moves Hartlepool above Gillingham, and Colchester United, when it comes to their away form this season with five points now from a possible 33 ahead of their next away fixture on Boxing Day, which comes against the side with the worst home record in the division in Rochdale.

Hartlepool United claw back rivals including Rochdale, Harrogate Town and Crawley Town

But even more significant than snapping their barren away run, it was a result which sees Hartlepool bring a number of teams back into the mix.

While several fixtures were postponed over the weekend due to the winter freeze, by beating Crawley, they have reduced the deficit to the Reds to just six points and are now within seven of Newport County who they welcome to the Suit Direct Stadium next.

With games against Newport, Rochdale and Harrogate Town to come in the next four outings it provides Curle’s side with a huge opportunity to put some points on the board against their direct rivals.

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And what victory against Crawley will do is give Hartlepool belief they can win games against their rivals when the pressure is on.

Is ex-Celtic defender set to leave following Hartlepool United exclusion

One player who missed out on the trip to Crawley is defender Brody Paterson with Curle raising speculation the former Celtic man could be one of the players he is looking to move on in the January transfer window.

Paterson was left out for tactical reasons with Curle revealing to The Mail he only wanted to travel with players he needed.

“It was purely selection,” he said.

“Because of the finances, people may not understand but for us to prepare, with changing the game to a Friday night, it’s cost us in the region of £8,000 which is a large chunk of money.

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“So with that I only travel with the players that I need, so we only travelled with 18. The kitman and everyone like that came down independently.”

Instead of Paterson, Curle preferred Tumilty in the left wing-back role which could be a hint as to where Paterson finds himself in the pecking order at the Suit Direct Stadium.