Hartlepool United 2-2 Rotherham United RECAP: Shootout heartbreak for Pools as Rotherham head to Papa John's Trophy final

Hartlepool United lost on penalties in the semi-final of the Papa John's Trophy. Picture by FRANK REIDHartlepool United lost on penalties in the semi-final of the Papa John's Trophy. Picture by FRANK REID
Hartlepool United lost on penalties in the semi-final of the Papa John's Trophy. Picture by FRANK REID
Hartlepool United suffered penalty shootout heartbreak as Rotherham United booked their spot in the Papa John’s Trophy final.

After a thrilling semi-final tie in front of a sold-out Suit Direct Stadium, the two sides could not be separated after 90 pulsating minutes.

Joe Grey gave Pools the lead on the half hour mark with an excellent finish and it was a lead they held through to half-time.

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But the League One leaders came out with a renewed sense of urgency and took the game to Graeme Lee’s side and equalised through Michael Smith’s close range header.

Yet Pools fans were allowed to dream of a first Wembley appearance in their history just five minutes later as Luke Molyneux continued his fine form to restore Pools’ lead.

Once again however, the Millers were able to respond as Smith again found the target powering home another header from the left.

Both sides gave as good as they got in the closing stages with Ben Killip forced to make two stunning saves to force a penalty shootout.

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And after both sides converted their first three spot kicks it was Molyneux who was first to be denied by Viktor Johannson.

But Killip came to the rescue again for Pools to stop Ben Wiles.

Omar Bogle made it advantage to Pools before Angus Macdonald coolly restored parity.

And up stepped Tom Crawford who fired his kick high and wide to hand the advantage to Paul Warne’s side who would not pass up the opportunity this time with Mickel Miller converting to send Rotherham to Wembley.

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Lee named a strong starting XI with Neill Byrne’s return the only change to the starting line-up from Saturday’s win over Harrogte Town.

And despite a bright start from the visitors it was Pools who took the lead through Grey when he beat the offside trap from David Fertguson’s in-swinging freekick to cushion a delightful volley in off Johannson’s inside post to send the sell-out Suit Direct Stadium into raptures.

Pools were buoyed by the goal and took the game to their League One counterparts but Grey’s goal was what separated the sides at the break.

The Millers came out much improved after the break and quickly levelled the scores when Dan Barlaser’s freekick from the edge of the area was met by Smith who powered beyond Killip.

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Barlaser struck the bar from distance before Pools hit the front once more against the run of play.

Grey and Crawford hassled the midfield and came away with the ball as Grey found Molyneux on the right of the penalty area and the in-form strike rolled the ball between the legs of the defender and into the corner.

But the visitors showed their mettle by responding again through Smith who glanced Chiedozie Ogbene’s cross beyond Killip.

Pools were forced to dig in as the League One side searched for a winner and Killip was the star as he twice denied the Millers in the closing stages.

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It meant the game would be decided on penalties where unfortunately this time Pools were on the wrong end of the shootout as the wait for a Wembley appearance goes on.

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Hartlepool United 2-2 Rotherham United (Rotherham win 5-4 on penalties) RECAP: Shootout heartbreak for Pools as Rotherham head to Wembley

Key Events

  • Mickel Miller scores the winning penalty after Luke Molyneux and Tom Crawford miss from the spot.
  • Michael Smith equalises for Rotherham for a second time
  • Luke Molyneux restores Hartlepool’s lead
  • Michael Smith heads Rotherham level
  • Joe Grey gives Hartlepool the lead
  • Hartlepool United XI: Killip, Sterry, Byrne, Odusina, Ferguson, Feathertsone ©, Crawford, Shelton, Grey, Molyneux, Bogle
  • Subs: Bilokapic, Liddle, Francis-Angol, Smith, Holohan, Fletcher, Carver
  • Rotherham United XI: Johansson, Barlaser, Wood ©, Osei-Tutu, Wiles, Bola, Lindsay, Macdonal, Odoffin, Edmonds-Green, Smith
  • Subs: Vicker, Mattock, Ogbene, Miller, Ferguson, Rathbone, Ihiekwe

And that wraps things up here at the Suit Direct Stadium as Hartlepool United fail agonisingly short of the Papa John’s Trophy final at the last hurdle.

Pools pushed a side who are likelyto be playing Championship football next season all the way to spot kicks where this time luck was not on their side as they narrowly missed out.

But there can be so much for Pools to take away from this, on the pitch and in the stands as we head back to the Suit Direct Stadium on Saturday for the visit of Leyton Orient.

And we will be there to guide you through every kick.

Thanks for joining us once again.

Graeme Lee has given his initial reaction to Hartlepool United’s penalty shootout defeat to Rotherham United admitting his side have to take the positives despite their heartbreaking loss.

“You couldn’t not enjoy the game and what it was.

“The efforts and what we gave on that pitch tonight against the top team in League One were immense.

“We created chances, we scored goals, we responded to them. Performance wise we’ve got to take so much from that.

“I thought when it got to 4-3 and we scored the penalty I thought that was it, I thought the lad was going to miss and we were through.

“The lads have took responsibility and stepped up and fair play to them. As a player I never did that. I have no qualms and no worries they’ve missed. That happens in football.

“We can’t dwell on this loss. We’ve got to take positives from it and kick-on.”

Will Matthews | MI News & Sport Ltd

Our Hartlepool United reporter shares his views on a devastating night for Pools.

“In a word, wow. What an evening.

“Pools have so much to be proud of after a gripping night at the Suit Direct Stadium, from the noise in the terraces to the performances on the pitch, the entire club gave everything to the cause in the hope of reaching Wembley.

“Unfortunately, football can be a cruel game and Pools were on the receiving end of that tonight with the tie being decided on penalties.

“Credit to every player who stood up and took one. As the saying goes, a shootout is a real lottery.

“In the quarter-final Pools were on the right end of it, tonight they weren’t.

“It’s hard to single out players as across the board there were a number of fine displays from Graeme Lee’s men.

“They will be dejected in the changing room but they wowed a 7,532 strong crowd and can be proud of their efforts in the competition this season.

“They have allowed supporters to dream.”

Initial reaction to Pools shootout heartbreak

Miller scores to send Rotherham to Wembley

Crawford fires high and wide. Advantage Rotherham

Wiles sees it saved by Killip what a stop

Molyneux has his kick saved!

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