Dave Challinor highlights 'outstanding' individual displays from Middlesbrough goalkeeper and former Norwich City defender in Hartlepool United's 1-0 play-off win at Stockport County
It was a team effort for Hartlepool United as they secured a place in the National League play-off final – yet it was their two youngest starters that Dave Challinor was quick to praise.
21-year-olds Brad James and Timi Odusina both played a crucial role in keeping Stockport County at bay as Pools secured a 1-0 win at Edgeley Park.
Middlesbrough loan goalkeeper James made a number of confident saves including a point blank stop to deny former Pools loan striker Richie Bennett in the final moments of the game to keep his clean sheet intact.
On James’ performance, Challinor admitted: "He was outstanding in such a big game for a young player.
“Sometimes things go your way and when Benno gets that header right at the end maybe you look at it and it’s written in the stars for us because it’s a brilliant save.
"The better one is the one he comes and takes it in the 94th minute for us which just relieves pressure. I wasn’t overly happy that he then kicked it straight down the middle to their goalkeeper! I’d much rather he kicked it up into the director’s box or something but we can all learn."
Just in front of James, Odusina continued his fine play-off form since stepping back up into the starting line-up due to Lewis Cass’ absence through injury.
And after previously being critical of the defender following the 4-2 defeat at home to Maidenhead United last month, Challinor didn’t hold back with his praise this time around.
“I thought Timi was absolutely outstanding,” he told The Mail. “It’s probably the best game he’s had for us since he’s been here.
"Defensively and aerially he was very good and he was a little bit safe in the first half but he can step in and he needs to do that more.
Challinor continued: "Regardless of the outcome of the game, they’ll be miles better for the experience and that will be the same next week.
"Experiences good or bad build you as a person and build you within the football circles.
"We don’t have masses of experience in terms of play-off campaigns within our dressing room but we showed that’s not always vital. We did well and have given ourselves a shot at achieving something special.”