Former Sheffield United and Leeds United midfielder scores for Hartlepool United in 5-2 friendly win over Sunderland AFC under-23s
Hartlepool United came from 2-0 down to beat Sunderland under-23s 2-5 at The Academy of Light on Wednesday afternoon.
Mitchell Curry and Ryan Wombwell put the young Black Cats side into an early two goal lead before Pools responded with a brace from Mason Bloomfield as well as goals from Joe Grey, Luke Williams and 18-year-old trialist Connor Leak-Blunt to claim victory.
"It was a really good run out for us in terms of what we needed,” Pools manager Dave Challinor told The Mail.
“It was played at a really good tempo. Sometimes when you play under-23s teams it can almost turn into an under-23s game if you like but our lads needed more from it than that.
"We needed to play as though it was a game at our level which I thought we did great. Everyone has got through it fine with no ill-effects.”
The match marked the long awaited return of defender Gary Liddle from a groin injury. The 34-year-old hadn’t featured for Pools for three months after suffering a grade three tear in the 6-0 FA Cup win at Ilkeston Town in October.
Liddle played 45-minutes before being replaced by David Ferguson, something that was always part of the plan for the centre-back.
"Lidds is fine, I spoke to him after the game and the plan was for him to play 45-minutes,” Challinor added.
"It was good for everyone really, we tried Claudio [Ofosu] and Mols [Luke Molyneux] in a wing-back position just to have a look at different things and try them in the shape that we’re currently playing which gives them the opportunity to push to start.
"There were loads of positives but the main one was probably that Lidds played his first 45-minutes since October, Luke Williams got 75-minutes and scored a really good goal too. It was a really worthwhile game for us.”
Derby County loanee Henrich Ravas started in goal for Pools for the first time since the FA Trophy defeat at Halifax Town. Lewis Cass also returned from a hamstring injury alongside Liddle.
Tom Crawford, Claudio Ofosu, Luke Molyneux and Luke Williams were in midfield with Joe Grey and Mason Bloomfield leading the line.
First team squad members Joe Bunney or Josh MacDonald were not involved despite being yet to feature for the side in 2021.
Instead, Challinor turned to trialists including a holding-midfielder with experience playing in Sweden as well as former Leeds United and Sheffield United academy player Leak-Blunt.
“Connor is one who has came in through his agent Kev Wilson, who I know well,” the Pools boss added.
"He’s been at Leeds, went to Sheffield United and now his agent is looking at what level to pitch him really and where he can find a club.
"He’s made a brave decision to step away from under-23s football and try to get into men’s football.
"He’s been with us since before Christmas and today was an opportunity to get him some minutes and he scored a good goal too. I’m going to look at Connor and see what sort of level he’s able to play at.”