Hartlepool United 3-3 Harrogate Town: Points shared in pulsating start to 2023 at the Suit Direct Stadium

Mark Shelton celebrates his goal for Hartlepool United in their 3-3 draw with Harrogate Town. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)Mark Shelton celebrates his goal for Hartlepool United in their 3-3 draw with Harrogate Town. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)
Mark Shelton celebrates his goal for Hartlepool United in their 3-3 draw with Harrogate Town. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)
Hartlepool United and Harrogate Town shared the points in a pulsating start to 2023 at the Suit Direct Stadium.

Pools came from behind in the first half before twice losing a second half lead as a crucial clash at the bottom of the League Two table ended all square with six goals shared.

Alex Pattison gave Harrogate an early lead before Josh Umerah’s 11th goal of the season levelled things up on half-time.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Pools were far from their best in the opening 45 minutes but they played their part in a highly entertaining second half as Mohamad Sylla and a fabulous Mark Shelton strike twice gave them the initiative only for Sam Folarin and an even better George Thomson strike to level things up with neither side able to grab that elusive winner.

The task facing Keith Curle this month, when it comes to strengthening his squad, was laid to bare at first glance of the team sheet against Harrogate.

Having been forced off in the defeat to Mansfield Town with what Curle described as groin and back issues, Jamie Sterry was missing from the match day squad which, again, included academy trio Louis Stephenson, Campbell Darcy and Joe Kitching.

Sterry was replaced by Joe Grey who was handed his first league start of the season as Curle returned to an ‘attack is the best form of defence’ policy in a 4-3-3 system.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Grey joined Jack Hamilton, who scored his first league goal for Hartlepool against Mansfield, and Umerah, who had notched three times against Harrogate this season, in attack.

Midfielder Shelton, on the back of his cameo as a third centre-back in midweek, was here deployed at right-back with Reghan Tumilty still preferred as a left-back option and David Ferguson alongside Rollin Menayese at centre-back.

Euan Murray, who missed the defeat to Mansfield through illness, remained out and was joined by fellow Scotsman Jake Hastie who was not involved in the match day squad.

It was a sparse looking squad for Pools, particularly in defence, and it showed within five minutes as they fell behind to Harrogate’s first attack.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Folarin’s header was helped on by Luke Armstrong as a bouncing ball beat the Pools backline all too easily to allow Pattison a clear run at goal and he made no mistake in sending Ben Killip the wrong way.

The early goal appeared to knock the late Christmas stuffing out of Hartlepool who were all at sea from there on in during the first half.

The long ball almost paid dividends for Harrogate again minutes later as Armstrong lifted over Menayese to set Pattison away before Shelton was able to get back and block.

It took until midway through the first half for Pools to muster up something as a Shelton diagonal was won by Hamilton who was able to latch onto his own knockdown before flashing wide of Pete Jameson’s post.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Callum Cooke and Tumilty exchanged well in the Harrogate half, with Cooke’s first touch from the return allowing him a sight of goal but his left-footed strike lacked any real conviction.

But the frustration was growing among the home supporters as Curle’s side struggled to make any real inroads on the Harrogate goal despite this being such a significant fixture.

Instead it was Harrogate who might have extended their lead when Pattison was able to capitalise on Tumilty’s poor clearance to lift a ball over the defence for Armstrong to run onto and he tried his luck from a tight angle only for Killip to push clear.

Armstrong was causing problems again heading into the break as he got the better of Menayese on the left before firing into the side netting.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Despite the way the game was panning out, however, Hartlepool levelled on the stroke of half-time as Umerah met a clever flick by Grey to poke beyond Jameson at his near post for his 11th goal of the season and his fourth against Harrogate.

Although Pools went into the break level, you suspect Curle would not have refrained from the hairdryer treatment and it told as his side went in front almost immediately from the restart.

Grey again was involved as he helped work the ball out to the right where Shelton was powering forward and his low cross would eventually land at the feet of Sylla from six-yards who made no mistake when finding the back of the net.

There was a palpable relief around the Suit Direct Stadium at that point - but it was short-lived.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Folarin, who had been lively all afternoon, raced onto Armstrong’s ball through the middle and had the legs on Shelton, who missed with his sliding tackle, before calmly finding the bottom corner to level the scores within minutes.

Harrogate should have taken the lead as they looked to kick on following their swift equaliser as Pattison had two big opportunities to hand them the initiative.

The simple ball over the top was again Pools’ downfall as Armstrong peeled off and made it to the byline before cutting back to Pattison from around eight-yards but Killip saved well with his legs.

Pattison would then go even closer when picking up Folarin’s ball, after the former Middlesbrough man recycled Armstrong’s cross from the right, only to rattle the top of the cross bar as Pools breathed a sigh of relief.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Having been let off the hook at one end, Pools were then left with their heads in their hands at the other as Cooke and Menayese looked to link up from yet another set-piece only for the defender to this time head wide when, perhaps, he should have done better.

But that despair didn’t last for too long as Hartlepool regained the lead thanks to wonderful strike from Shelton.

The makeshift full-back picked up Nicky Featherstone’s good through ball into his stride before curling left-footed beyond Jameson into the far corner.

This time Pools were able to hold onto the lead for longer than a couple of minutes as they actually nearly went further ahead when Tumilty tried his luck from range to force Jameson into a scurrying save away to his left.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But Harrogate weren’t done as they hit back again with little over 15 minutes to go through Thomson’s stunning strike.

Pools cleared a corner from the right only as far as Thomson on the corner of the box who hit a bouncing ball and watched it arrow through a crowded penalty area and into the far corner.

The home side might have pinched it late on when Grey’s excellent work to get the better of Jaheim Headley found Umerah in the box but his strike lacked the power to trouble Jameson under pressure from Warren Burrell as the two sides were forced to settle for a point each to begin the new year.

Hartlepool United XI: Killip, Shelton, Menayese, Ferguson, Tumilty, Featherstone ©, Sylla, Cooke (McDonald ‘80), Grey, Hamilton, Umerah (Missilou ‘87)

Subs: Boyes, Paterson, Stephenson, Darcy, Kitching

Harrogate Town XI: Jameson, Mattock, Burrell ©, Thomson, Folarin, Headley, Pattison, Austerfield, Muldoon, Ramsay, Armstrong

Subs: Oxley, Welch-Hayes, Wright, Frost, McArdle, Horbury, Ilesanmi