Hartlepool United 0 Port Vale 1: Conor Hall's header enough to see off Graeme Lee's side and continue promotion push

Hartlepool United slipped to back-to-back home defeats in League Two as they were narrowly beaten by promotion chasing Port Vale on Good Friday.

By Joe Ramage
Friday, 15th April 2022, 5:06 pm

Conor Hall scored the only goal of the game to keep Darrell Clarke’s side on track for automatic promotion heading in midway through the second half.

Hall latched onto the end of Jake Taylor’s cross to power beyond young goalkeeper Nicholas Bilokapic with Pools unable to find a route back into the game.

Pools supporters did get to see Luke Molyneux return to action as Graeme Lee introduced the 24-year-old for the final 10 minutes.

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Port Vale's Connor Hall celebrates after scoring their first goal during the League Two match between Hartlepool United and Port Vale. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

There were two significant changes to the starting line-up following last week’s creditable draw with Forest Green Rovers as Ben Killip and Timi Odusina missed out through injury.

In their place came young loan duo Bilokapic and Jake Hull with Bilokapic earning his home debut while Rotherham United defender Hull made his first start for Pools.

But there were also changes on the bench with Lee only able to name six substitutes as captain Nicky Featherstone and Joe Grey missed out altogether following what Lee hinted were training ground injuries from earlier in the week.

There was some positive news however as one of those six spots on the bench was occupied by the returning Molyneux having missed the last two games with an injury picked up in the draw with Mansfield Town.

And after a conservative opening from both teams it was Pools who were first to force a save as Bryn Morris’ searching pass almost found Omar Bogle only for Vale defender Hall to force his own keeper Aidan Stone to push behind for a corner.

Gary Liddle, captaining the side once again in Featherstone’s absence, made an excellent block in the area to deny Jamie Proctor before Tom Crawford tried his luck with a dipping volley from the edge of the area which went just over the bar.

Bogle was another off target after showing good strength to hold off Hall before David Ferguson skipped inside onto his right to test Stone low to his left.

The best opportunity of the first half fell to the visitors however as Ryan Edmondson got the better of Ferguson and Neill Byrne to reach the byline and pick out Ben Garrity in the area but the attacking midfielder could not add to his 11-goal tally for the season as he guided his header over the bar.

Pools saw big claims for a penalty waved away in the closing stages of the half as Ferguson’s corner appeared to be parried away by Aaron Martin but Chris Sarginson waved away the protests.

And Pools were almost behind instantly after the restart when Ferguson and Bilokapic were out of sync as the defender cushioned a header beyond his goalkeeper with the 19-year-old preventing an own goal on the line.

Former Pools man Brad Walker fired over from distance before Mark Shelton was off target for the hosts.

Bilokapic was on hand again to deny Proctor when he capitalised on a loose ball from Crawford as the visitors stepped things up.

But there was a renewed vigour to the away side after the break and they got the goal they had threatened when Hall was on hand to dispatch Taylor’s excellent cross.

Hartlepool United XI: Bilokapic, Sterry (Fletcher ‘86), Hull, Liddle ©, Byrne, Ferguson, Morris, Shelton (White ‘73), Crawford, Bogle, Carver (Molyneux ‘81)

Subs: Boyes, Ogle, Smith

Port Vale XI: Stone, Smith ©, Martin, Hall, Edmondson (Hussey ‘70), Walker (Taylor ‘55), Garrity, Charsley, Benning, Proctor, Wilson (Harratt ‘78)

Subs: Holy, Robinson, Jones, , Amoo