Hartlepool United 1-2 Mansfield Town: Pools upstaged as Rhys Oates inspires second half comeback

Rhys Oates scored on his return to Hartlepool United with Mansfield Town. (Credit: Michael Driver | MI News)Rhys Oates scored on his return to Hartlepool United with Mansfield Town. (Credit: Michael Driver | MI News)
Rhys Oates scored on his return to Hartlepool United with Mansfield Town. (Credit: Michael Driver | MI News)
Rhys Oates inspired a second half comeback for Mansfield Town as Hartlepool United ended 2022 with defeat at the Suit Direct Stadium.

Oates returned to haunt Pools when hammering in an equaliser early in the second half to cancel out Jack Hamilton’s first league goal for Hartlepool.

Oates’ goal turned the tide in the game as Nigel Clough’s side completed the comeback on the hour when Ollie Hawkins powered in from inside the area to end Pools’ two match winning run with Keith Curle also, again, losing Jamie Sterry to injury

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Hartlepool arrived for their final fixture of 2022 buoyed by back-to-back wins, something they hadn’t experienced since back in February, after wins over Crawley Town and Boxing Day’s dramatic success over Rochdale.

Jack Hamilton scored his first league goal for Hartlepool United against Mansfield Town. (Credit: Michael Driver | MI News)Jack Hamilton scored his first league goal for Hartlepool United against Mansfield Town. (Credit: Michael Driver | MI News)
Jack Hamilton scored his first league goal for Hartlepool United against Mansfield Town. (Credit: Michael Driver | MI News)

Curle stuck with the same starting line-up who won at Crawley in early December for the visit to the Crown Oil Arena but was unable to do so here at the Suit Direct Stadium as defender Euan Murray was ruled out through illness.

The Scotsman played through despite struggling ahead of Boxing Day but was unavailable against the Stags as midfielder Mark Shelton came in for what was Curle’s only change.

Shelton was starting for the first time since the 2-1 defeat at Swindon Town in October where he picked up a calf injury which kept him out of action for over six weeks and doing so in defence.

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There was also a surprise on the bench as, in Shelton’s place, came Barnsley loanee Clarke Oduor despite Curle confirming the 23-year-old will leave the club in the New Year with Hartlepool cutting short his loan deal.

The meeting with Clough’s side saw the return of Oates who continued his comeback over the last month from a pectoral injury which kept him out for three months at the beginning of the season. There was also a place for former Pools goalkeeper Scott Flinders on the bench while ex-Newcastle United defender James Perch was starting his first league game in over a month.

But a second league game in just three days seemed to take its toll a little as both sides played out a fairly even, subdued, opening 10 minutes at the Suit Direct Stadium - something which is unlikely to have concerned Curle too much as his makeshift defence settled into proceedings.

And it was one of those defenders who was called into action first as David Ferguson and Reghan Tumilty were on different wavelengths to allow Mansfield a corner which would eventually fall to Lucas Akins who powered towards goal only for Ferguson to make amends with a strong block.

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Mohamad Sylla did well to free Josh Umerah down the right but his cross took the slightest deflection off Hawkins’ head to take it away from Hamilton.

Sylla was involved again moments later when linking well with Callum Cooke to free Tumilty on the left but his low cross was well gathered.

Ferguson made another solid block after Ben Killip failed to collect Stephen McLaughlin’s deep free kick which allowed Ollie Clarke an effort at goal.

Mansfield captain Clarke would soon depart the game with an injury but not before Pools would take the lead.

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Sterry showed good enthusiasm to win a corner from George Maris and having gone so long without a set-piece goal, Hartlepool can now not stop converting from them as Hamilton flicked Cooke’s corner off the post and in to hand Curle’s side the lead.

The visitors looked for an immediate response as Oates would loop a header over the bar before Will Swan spurned a good opportunity when heading over at the near post from McLauglin’s free kick on the left.

Sylla threaded a clever ball through to Umerah, despite being on the floor, with Umerah turning his man in the area before firing into the side netting.

Sylla showed his ability on the ground again moments later as he somehow got the better of both Akins and Elliot Hewitt to pick out Sterry at the back post only for his cut-back to be cleared.

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Ferguson and Shelton were almost the architects of Hartlepool’s downfall on half-time as they lacked communication to allow Mansfield another corner in which Hawkins headed at Killip.

Clough made a change at the break in bringing Stephen Quinn on for Kieran Wallace and moved Hawkins up front but it was the earlier substitute George Lapslie who made the difference as the Stags levelled things instantly after the restart.

Lapslie found too much space in midfield before threading through to Oates on the right who had time and space to emphatically hammer beyond Killip in front of the travelling supporters.

The goal gave Mansfield a spring in their step as they looked dangerous every time they came forward - Tumilty on hand to make a key interception to deny Oates soon after his goal.

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Pools did win a corner in which Hamilton went close again when heading over before Mansfield completed their comeback through Hawkins.

Swan was able to again pick up the ball in midfield and got the better of Menayese who had drifted out of his position before it fell kindly to Lapslie who did well to beat Ferguson and stand a cross up to the back post where Hawkins was on hand to power in low beneath Killip.

Hartlepool’s misfortune continued as Sterry was forced off with what seemed like another potential injury as Curle was forced into yet more defensive changes.

Frustrations began to mount as Cooke was booked after a face-off with Quinn before the midfielder would then go close to equalising when volleying over the bar.

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Sylla saw appeals for a penalty waved away before Christopher Missilou went close when his strike from distance deflected wide.

But despite seven minutes of added time, Pools were unable to force an equaliser as they end the year with a defeat.

Hartlepool United XI: Killip, Sterry (Missilou ‘63), Menayese, Ferguson, Tumilty, Featherstone, Shelton (McDonald ‘58), Sylla, Cooke, Hamilton, Umerah (Grey ‘74)

Subs: Boyes, Paterson, Oduor, Hastie

Mansfield Town XI: Pym, McLaughlin, Hewitt, Akins (O’Toole ‘88), Clarke © (Lapslie ‘30), Maris (Hartigan ‘80), Hawkins, Perch, Wallace (Quinn ‘45), Oates, Swan

Subs: Flinders, Gordon, Boateng

Referee: Martin Coy