Hartlepool United 2-1 Blackpool: The key talking points as Graeme Lee's side claim another cup scalp to move into the fourth round of the FA Cup

Hartlepool United did it again against higher level opposition.

By Joe Ramage
Sunday, 9th January 2022, 12:00 pm

It was another memorable afternoon at the Suit Direct Stadium as Graeme Lee’s side came from behind to see off Blackpool in the FA Cup.

David Ferguson got Pools back into the game with a goal against his former club before substitute Joe Grey scored a winner just seconds after being introduced.

It means the fairytale continues for Pools who will have all eyes on the fourth round draw for the first time since 2009.

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Graeme Lee celebrated another memorable day in the FA Cup with Hartlepool United. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

And here are some of the key talking points from another successful cup display.

Setting the scene

Pools headed into their FA Cup third round tie full of confidence after another impressive win in midweek.

Lee used the Papa John’s Trophy tie with Bolton Wanderers to shake things up in his team with several changes and a tweak to the system and was left impressed by a number of players who helped claim a 1-0 win to move Pools into the quarter finals of the competition.

Joe Grey came off the bench to grab the winner against Blackpool in the FA Cup third round. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

Lee admitted it had impacted his plans ahead of the tie with Blackpool after he had hoped to involve the majority of his squad over the two cup fixtures.

The tie with Blackpool represented another chance for Pools to test themselves against a side from a league above, this time from the Championship.

And Neil Critchley’s side arrived with intent, with the Seasiders making just one change to the side who narrowly beat Hull City last time out.

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Hartlepool United fans celebrate their win over Blackpool in the FA Cup. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

The Pools boss made six changes to his side with Jamie Sterry passed fit to play following a rib injury picked up in the goalless draw with Oldham Athletic.

Gary Liddle also returned to the heart of the defence with Ferguson replacing Zaine Francis-Angol to go up against the side he captained back in 2015.

Tom Crawford was one of the four to retain their starting shirts along with goalkeeper Ben Killip and defenders Timi Odusina and Neill Byrne.

Byrne relinquished the captains armband however as Nicky Featherstone was restored to midfield with Gavan Holohan.

The biggest news perhaps came up front with Mark Cullen back in the squad after a concerning week off the field.

Cullen, who spent four years at Bloomfield Road, was alongside Luke Molyneux in attack.

Despite a match winning role in midweek, Matty Daly had to settle for a spot on the bench.

Reverting back to type

Lee will have had more than his team selection to worry about heading into the game after seeing his side perform so well in a change of system in midweek.

Lee revealed he had been eager to test his side in a back four with traditional wingers and managed to do so against Bolton with the results no doubt pleasing.

However, Lee reverted back to type for the visit of Blackpool with five at the back as Sterry and Ferguson resumed their wing-back roles.

Afterwards, Lee admitted he opted to trust the more experienced nature of his line-up against the threat of a Championship side.

Mark Cullen back in the fold

The absence of Cullen over the last week has been concerning given the nature of his leave.

Thankfully for Cullen things have picked up off the field and the 29-year-old was able to return to the starting XI.

After a positive opening spell where Cullen led the line in hassling the Blackpool defence the Pools striker had little to feed off after the Seasiders took the lead.

Cullen strayed into a number of offside positions much to the frustration of both himself and supporters but he did test Daniel Grimshaw with a smart header before the half was out.

All in, it was a satisfactory return to the side for Cullen who got a good 60 minutes under his belt.

Super sub

Cullen's replacement however played the role of super sub as Grey netted the winner just seconds after being introduced.

Pools boss Lee admitted Grey was one of the players who narrowly missed out on being handed back-to-back starts after impressing from the left wing against Bolton.

But Grey came on and was placed through the middle to immediate effect.

The teenager showed composure beyond his years as he collected Crawford’s clever pass and dispatched well beyond Grimshaw much to the delight of the Pools fans in the Rink End.

The key for Grey now is to maintain this momentum and force his way into Lee’s plans on a more regular basis.

Man of the match Ferguson

It would be hard to comment on Pools’ win without complementing Ferguson on a terrific display from left back.

Ferguson was key at driving Pools into the Blackpool half and provided a constant outlet on the left where he was able to cut inside and strike right footed to get Pools back into the game early in the second half.

But not only was Ferguson key in attack, he was immense at the back thwarting CJ Hamilton on a number of occasions to lead the charge for Pools.

Ferguson’s defensive attributes can sometimes be called into question but not here as he more than matched his opponents from the Championship.

Away fans in the Town End

It continued to be an afternoon of trial and error at the Suit Direct Stadium with away fans housed in the Town End.

Much like Bolton in midweek (369), Blackpool fans travelled in good numbers (584) and filled the majority of the usual home end with Pools supporters located in the Rink End.

The experiment comes following discussions between the club and fans groups over the continued safety issues within the North West Corner of the ground.

Both the FA Cup and EFL Trophy ties have gone well in that respect and while Pools fans will undoubtedly look forward to a return to the Town End it was an experiment worth doing for the club as they look to seek the best possible matchday experience at the Suit Direct Stadium.

Hartlepool United XI: Killip, Sterry, Byrne, Liddle, Odusina, Ferguson, Featherstone, Crawford, Holohan, Molyneux (Fondop ‘90), Cullen (Grey ‘59)

Subs: Boyes, Ogle Francis-Angol, Shelton, Daly, Smith, Olomola

Blackpool XI: Grimshaw, Connolly, Husband (Garbutt ‘42), Anderson (Hamilton ‘34), Bowler (Yates ‘78), Dougall, Madine, Lavery, Ekpiteta © (Mitchell ‘78), Keogh, Sterling

Subs: Gabriel, Moore, Casey, Mariette, Monks

Yellow cards: Connolly (28) Ekpiteta (76)

Attendance: 4,942 (584 Blackpool)

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