Hartlepool United 2-2 Charlton Athletic: The key talking points as Graeme Lee's side seal dramatic shootout win to move into the semi-finals of the Papa John's Trophy

Hartlepool United continued their scintillating cup form with victory over Charlton Athletic in the Papa John’s Trophy.

By Joe Ramage
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 12:30 pm

Pools had to do it the hard way as they came from behind to force a penalty shootout where they were able to hold their nerve to book a spot in the last four.

Joe Grey continued his recent good form in the cups with a delightful chip over Craig MacGillivray to hand Pools the lead before Mason Burstow and Alex Gilbey put the League One side in front.

Pools levelled with a stunning equaliser from Luke Molyneux before Jamie Sterry scored the all important spot kick.

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Hartlepool United celebrated their penalty shootout success over Charlton Athletic in the Papa John's Trophy. Picture by FRANK REID

And here are some of the key takeaways from the Suit Direct Stadium.

Setting the scene

As has been the case regularly in recent weeks for Pools a distraction from League Two will have been welcomed after another frustrating draw on home soil against Stevenage at the weekend.

Tuesday’s visit of Charlton gave Pools another chance to show what they are capable of against a team from the division above having enjoyed much success against higher level opposition across both cup competitions this season.

Joe Grey handed Hartlepool United the lead in their Papa John's Trophy quarter-final tie. Picture by FRANK REID

And while the Papa John’s Trophy is often frowned upon in it’s primitive stages, with Pools just two wins from Wembley before kick-off, the competition all of a sudden held a greater significance.

Team news

Lee has utilised the EFL Trophy as an opportunity to hand minutes to some of his players who have otherwise struggled for games and he continued in that manner here.

The Pools boss made seven changes with Ben Killip, Timi Odusina, Mark Shelton and Mark Cullen the four to keep their places from Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Stevenage.

Luke Hendrie was given the captain's armband for Hartlepool United against Charlton Athletic.. (Credit: Will Matthews | MI News)

Odusina formed part of a back four with Sterry returning to the side following his suspension while Zaine Francis-Angol was at left back.

The biggest surprise in defence came with Luke Hendrie replacing Neill Byrne. Byrne had been an ever-present in the Pools XI since Lee took to the dugout against Lincoln City in December but was given a rest ahead of the weekend trip to Exeter City.

Hendrie was also given the captain's armband with Nicky Featherstone, Byrne and Gary Liddle all forming part of a strong-looking bench.

Grey and Olufela Olomola were handed starts from the wing.

Luke Hendrie captains Pools

With Byrne given a seat on the bench, Hendrie was brought in for his first appearance since December 1 against Sheffield Wednesday.

Hendrie has been dealing with a calf problem that has kept him out in recent weeks but with new signing Jake Hull cup tied and Liddle often rested in the Papa John’s Trophy, Hendrie was given a chance to impress.

And not only that, he was handed the captain’s armband for the evening.

“Tonight was a night where I wanted to have a good look at Luke, his attitude in training has been absolutely fantastic and it was a good opportunity to give Byrner a bit of a rest,” said Lee.

“He’s experienced, he talks and what he does day in day out shows if he’s on the pitch he deserves that armband.”

Hendrie enjoyed a solid return to the starting line-up and almost capped his performance with a goal when narrowly grazing the bar with a speculative effort in the first-half.

Fighting for places

Hendrie was one of many who were given another shot in the starting XI and impressed.

The switch to a back four with wingers worked well as Grey and Olomola once again did their chances no harm with real hard-working displays.

Grey grabbed himself a goal and while Olomola should have scored in the first-half, much of Pools’ production came from him down the right in the opening 45 minutes.

Martin Smith enjoyed a real battling performance in midfield against an experienced head in Ben Watson. Smith’s ball forward led to Grey opening the scoring and he can be satisfied with his night’s work.

Francis-Angol is another who gave a good account of himself up against a tricky customer in Jonathan Leko with Lee now sure to be pondering whether he mixes things up when Pools return to the league this weekend.

Coming from behind

Any win is a good win but for Lee to see his side come from behind will be particularly pleasing.

Pools don’t have the best of records when falling behind in games this season so to claw their way back into proceedings against a League One side is certainly a positive.

And full credit must be given to the players who never let their heads drop after Gilbey had given the Addicks the lead.

Pools kept pressing, there was more urgency to their game than against Stevenage at the weekend and once again they created chances. It was a real spirited display.

Wonder goals

Although Pools were, again, guilty of missing opportunities, the two they did manage to convert were exceptional.

Grey raced clear of a high Charlton line and kept his composure, way beyond his years, to coolly lift the ball over the goalkeeper to hand Pools the lead. It was the perfect start from a player who is really coming of age in recent weeks under Lee.

But if Grey’s strike was good on the eye then Molyneux’s was even better as the 23-year-old found space to shift onto his left foot outside of the area to curl a wonderful effort beyond MacGillivray.

Calm under pressure

The least Pools deserved was a crack at penalties and with Molyneux’s strike they got that.

At which point it became about how they would handle the pressure and whether they could keep their nerve.

All five of Pools’ penalty takers stepped up with an air of confidence and never looked like missing.

Each kick was struck well and true and when the pressure kick landed on Sterry’s shoulders, he exuded a similar confidence as he did at Ashton Gate last June in the play-off final, where the result ended up the same.

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