Four big talking points from Hartlepool United's 4-0 win over Stockport County as Dave Challinor's side move up to fifth for Christmas

Hartlepool United got an early Christmas present in the form of a 4-0 win over nine man Stockport County at Victoria Park.

Wednesday, 23rd December 2020, 12:30 pm

Another Luke Armstrong brace along with goals from Rhys Oates and Ryan Johnson saw Pools claim a convincing win against a well fancied Hatters side who were reduced to nine men following straight red cards early on in each half.

The win moves Dave Challinor's side up to fifth in the National League table for Christmas ahead of a busy run of fixtures going into the new year.

Here are four big talking points from Tuesday night’s victory…

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Rhys Oates celebrates the opening goal.

Changes to the side

After making eight changes at Halifax Town in the FA Trophy on Saturday, a further eight changes were made as Pools returned to National League action.

Luke Armstrong, Tyler Magloire and Ryan Johnson were the only three players to survive the mass rotation from the weekend as Ben Killip, David Ferguson, Timi Odusina, Nicky Featherstone, Mark Shelton, Gavan Holohan, Rhys Oates and new signing Jamie Sterry came into the starting line-up.

This also prompted a formation change as Pools successfully reverted to a 3-5-2 set up.

Luke Armstrong celebrates his fourth goal.

Ferguson was able to get forward and impact the game going forward from a more advanced left wing-back position. On the opposite side, Sterry proved effective at both ends in what was an impressive debut for the former Newcastle United man.

In midfield, the partnership of Featherstone and Shelton enjoyed its most successful outing of the season so far as the pair helped Pools control the game from an early stage and make use of their numerical advantage.

Armstrong and Oates led the line for Pools in what proved to be the side’s most successful attacking outing at Victoria Park under Challinor.

The pair never stopped running throughout and had the quality in front of goal to match their work rate as Pools secured their joint biggest victory in the fifth tier.

Ryan Johnson scores for Pools.

Four goals

Oates set the tone early on with arguably Hartlepool’s goal of the season so far. The striker picked up the ball inside the Stockport half, shrugged off a couple of defenders before drilling it into the bottom right corner from the edge of the box to give Pools a 1-0 lead after six minutes.

The hosts already had the momentum behind them when Stockport were reduced to 10-men following Ash Palmer’s straight red card but they struggled to capitalise further with their numerical advantage as the sides went in 1-0 at the break.

But after the restart, Pools came out all guns blazing to effectively put the game to bed with Johnson quickly doubling the hosts’ advantage with his third of the season before Armstrong turned in from close range to make it 3-0.

Things would get better for Hartlepool with under 10-minutes of the second half played as Stockport were reduced to nine men. John Rooney was sent off for dissent following an altercation with the linesman.

At this point it was damage limitation for the visitors as Pools failed to really put them to the sword before Armstrong netted his second and Pools’ fourth in stoppage time with another goal poacher’s effort.

Just three league games into his Hartlepool career and he’s already the club’s top scorer in the fifth tier so far this season with four.

Red cards

Stockport always faced a difficult task after being a goal and a man down inside the opening quarter of an hour.

Palmer was shown a straight red for a high foot on Armstrong in front of the Mill House terrace.

Challinor admitted he would have been disappointed had the decision gone against his team. And it looked for a moment that the Hatters’ defender would escape with a caution as referee Paul Marsden took his time before eventually brandishing the red.

Perhaps the Pools players surrounding the referee in protest for once helped sway the decision.

It was harsh but ultimately correct going by the letter of the law as Palmer’s foot was deemed dangerously high as Armstrong went in with his head.

After being reduced to 10 men and trailing 3-0, things went from bad to worse for Stockport as Rooney let his frustrations get the better of him by verbally hitting out at the linesman.

The few in attendance at Victoria Park could audibly hear Rooney question the official’s integrity by branding him a ‘cheat’ as well an even less savoury word also beginning with the letter ‘C’.

With the ball in play, the linesman attempted to attract the referee’s attention by profusely waving his flag before the matter was attended too and Rooney was dismissed.

Due to the lack of crowd noise at The Vic, it was clear Rooney was guilty of the red card offence.

Up to fifth

It feels a bit surreal that after a run of just two wins in 11 matches ahead of Tuesday night’s game, Pools now sit fifth in the table following the comprehensive victory.

It’s consecutive clean sheets and back to back wins at The Vic for the first time this season. Hartlepool can enjoy being in the play-off places over Christmas, even if it does prove to be short lived.

With just four points separating third and 13th in the table and several teams having games in hand, Challinor’s side find themselves in a slightly false position.

Still, Tuesday night's win should give the side confidence and something to build on going into a crucial run of fixtures going into 2021.

It’s all about consistency for Pools – can they back this result up against Halifax Town on Boxing Day?

The two games against The Shaymen either side of the trip to Notts County could prove to be a season defining run for Pools.

Pick up six or more points over the next three games and they’ll be right up there to start the new year. Three points or under and it’s back to the drawing board once again.

Let’s hope it’s the former.

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