Hartlepool United Women appoint new first team manager ahead of entertaining friendly with Darlington

Hartlepool United Women have appointed Craig Bage as the club’s first team manager ahead of the new season.

Bage took control of duties for the first time on Sunday and enjoyed an entertaining start to his tenure as Pools played out a thrilling 4-4 draw with rivals Darlington in their first pre-season friendly.

Demi Fielding, Emily Stuart and a brace from Atalia Robinson looked to have given Pools victory over their neighbours, only for Sophie Curle to grab a late equaliser for the Quakers with her second of the game in added time.

But Bage will be pleased with what he saw from his new-look Hartlepool Women side as they prepare for a promotion push this season.

Hartlepool United Women have appointed a new first team manager. Picture by FRANK REID

Pools came from behind three times in an entertaining first half at Grayfields with Curle opening the scoring with a deflected effort in the opening 10 minutes before Fielding quickly levelled the scores a minute later.

But despite Pools’ pressure it was Darlington who retook the lead through Hattie Raine who fired in off the bar with Pools captain Emily Stuart volleying home Jess Bage’s corner to level things up once more midway through the half.

Raine gave the visitors the lead for a third time when capitalising on a short back pass before Robinson equalised again with an excellent strike from distance.

Bage’s side took the lead for the first time early in the second half when Robinson made no mistake from Liv Bell’s through ball, and that looked to be enough for Pools, only for them to be denied at the death when Curle tapped in from close range.

Hartlepool Women were relegated from the North East Regional Women’s Football League Premier Division last season, ending their six year stay at the level having won four of their 20 league matches.

Pools had been challenging for promotion to the National League two seasons ago before the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted things and ultimately brought an end to the campaign.

Following the confirmation of their relegation, a statement on social media by the club read: “Whilst this is an incredibly disappointing end to six years of being in the fifth tier, the club will regroup and aim for promotion next season.”

And those plans are already now in place with the appointment of Bage.