What is the old saying?
It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.
In terms of effort and determination it was fantasticSAM COLLINS
Yes, Billy Paynter’s exquisite goal changed the course of the game at York City and Michael Woods, with a little help from a defender, ensured a fairytale ending for the midfielder, who has made a remarkable comeback from injury.
But Hartlepool United’s first win for 27 years at Bootham Crescent was as much down to some good old-fashioned blood and snot effort as it was to two great individual moments.
The Pools of old, well, much of last season, could easily have folded under a York barrage.
Indeed, the Pools goal led a little bit of a charmed life in the first half as York’s up and at ‘em approach tested the resilience of Ronnie Moore and Sam Collins new-look side.
There was a flying block from Jake Carroll, two (more) outstanding saves from Adam Bartlett, with two further two home efforts cleared off the line and another rebounding off the crossbar.
Throw in the fact they lost their tallest defender, Harry Worley, early on and it made their afternoon an even tougher challenge.
But the new Pools showed great fortitude to hold out and then come again after York had taken a 57th-minute lead through Reece Thompson’s close-range finish.
“Away from home you have to dig in and we showed character to come back from one down,” said assistant boss Collins.
“In terms of effort and determination it was fantastic.
“The spirit is here, it’s a team, we’re not about individuals and we saw that.”
It takes 11 individuals to make a team and each one made significant contributions, plus the subs.
Matthew Bates slotted in seemlessly after coming on for Worley, using all his experience and nous at the heart of a defence tested by the strikeforce of Vadaine Oliver and Reece Thompson.
The Pools midfield continues to look a well-balanced unit and Carl Magnay could be challenging Bartlett and Paynter for the accolade of the signing of the summer.
A defender by trade, he wins possession in midfield with regularity and is no mug on the ball either with a calm approach.
Up front, Paynter showed again he is not just a powerful unit. He scored with a brilliant shot from the edge of the area, but set up both forward comrades Rakish Bingham and Scott Fenwick who, alas, could not convert.
York, with a spring in their step after the mid-week Capital One Cup penalty shoot-out win over Bradford, were the stronger side in the first half.
Bartlett saved well early on at the near post from Oliver and then came Carroll’s first intervention, blocking a Luke Summerfield shot.
York piled on the pressure but Pools refused to buckle.
Bartlett produced a save of the season contender to keep out an Oliver header from David Tutonda cross, diving full length low to his left to make a stop he seemingly had no right to make.
York went close again with Carroll and Fenwick clearing off the line before Winfield hit the bar late in the half following good work by Oliver.
Pools were not without their chances. Bingham was a threat with his pace and hopefully, soon, his finishing will match that. He was put through in the 19th minute by Paynter, only for ex-Pools keeper Scott Flinders to block the initial shot and then gather at the second attempt.
The former Mansfield striker also flashed chances either side of Flinders’ posts and Woods had a shot blocked by Winfield following a neat turn.
After having to play second fiddle to York in the first 45 minutes, Pools were much better in the second.
So it was somewhat against the run of play when York went ahead in the 57th minute, Pools conceding their first goal of the season.
The away defence appeared to have cleared any danger from a corner but the ball deflected off Harrison and fell kindly to Thompson who stabbed the ball past Bartlett from a few yards.
Pools should have been level within two minutes when Paynter teed up Fenwick but his shot was straight at Flinders who collected easily.
But Pools, as they showed at Fleetwood in midweek, will create chances.
And it was Paynter who again produced the piece of magic.
Bingham, positioned wide left, fed him out on edge of home box and the captain curled a beauty with his right foot into the top left corner of a bemused Flinders.
It proved the turning point. York’s play became ragged and it was Pools who found the winner nine minutes from time.
Bartlett picked out Bingham down the right in the home half. He moved forward and played a cross into the path of Woods.
A convincing shot it was not but the deflection off Winfield wrong-footed Flinders.
At the other end, Bartlett needed to execute one more smart save down to his left from a Oliver shot, but Pools played out time with a degree of comfort.
Confidence should be high for their next test – a home date with Newport tomorrow night. Can their mixture of style and substance triumph again?