CLOUD NINE! Hartlepool Utd in mega win at Billingham Town

Matthew Bates in action against Billingham Town. Picture by FRANK REID
Matthew Bates in action against Billingham Town. Picture by FRANK REID

IT has been a long time since Hartlepool United needed the brackets on the old vidi-printer.

But last night Colin Cooper’s first-team squad produced an emphatic and comprehensive display and ended up 9 (nine) - 0 winners over non-league Billingham Town.

The Pools boss was rightly keeping a lid on his emotions after the game – given the strength of the opposition – but it was still nice to see his youthful side look so ruthless and potent in front of goal.

Mind, you wouldn’t have expected there to be as many goals as there was substitutes, with Cooper making 10 changes over the course of the match, but there very nearly was.

And, in truth, there should have been more.

Trialist Eugen Bopp, in particular, had three good chances to score.

But this was as routine a win as you could imagine, with Billingham Town rarely threatening Scott Flinders and then Andy Rafferty in the Pools goal.

Indeed, Cooper admitted afterwards he saw last night’s match as an extension of a training ground exercise but the goals and attack-minded football will have none-the-less boosted his player’s morale and confidence.

Goals from Jack Compton, Marlon Harewood, Brad Walker, Kieran Green, a Jonathan Franks brace and a hat-trick from substitute Connor Smith sealed the win for Pools, who were 3-0 up at half-time before running riot after the break.

It was one-way traffic for the majority of the match against Town, who play in the Ebac Northern League Division Two following their relegation from Northern League Division One last season after winning just two matches.

Cooper named both new signings, Matthew Bates and Stuart Parnaby in his first starting line-up against Darren Trotter’s Town team.

As expected, Parnaby started in the holding midfield position alongside Bopp, who played well in the centre, aside from his missed opportunities.

Bates played alongside Neil Austin at the heart of defence, with Darren Holden and Michael Duckworth starting in the full-back positions.

In midfield, Bopp and Parnaby were joined by Jack Compton on the right-wing and Jonathan Franks down the left, with Billingham-born Brad Walker in the centre and Harewood the focal point up front.

There was no place for ex-Pools midfielder Tommy Miller or Michael Woods, both of which are training with the club, but they could feature against Bradford Park Avenue away on Saturday.

Sky Bet League Two side Pools were looking the more dangerous in the opening stages, with Billingham-born Walker - captain for the night - and Harewood both going close early on.

Pools eventually took the lead in the 20th minute thanks to Compton’s long range effort from the right-wing, which managed to evade keeper Corey Smith and end up in the back of the net.

It was just rewards for Cooper’s side who had bossed possession and had the better of the chances.

Walker looked bright and blasted a shot high over the bar moments later when he had acres of space to take the ball on further.

It was then Bopp’s turn but after doing the hard work of shaking off his defender, his shot from eight-yards was screwed wide of the left-hand post.

Moments later it was 2-0.

Harewood with the powerful finish from close range after Smith failed to deal with a Jonathan Franks cross from the left-wing.

The second goal briefly spurred on the home side and Drew Lambert tested Scott Flinders with a 25-yard lob but the back-pedalling keeper managed to tip it over the bar.

Stewart Brown then nodded the resulting corner wide with a header, when he should have done better.

The first subs were made just past the half-hour mark.

Trialist Biko Bradnock-Brennan slotted into central defence when he came on alongside Jordan Richards, Josh Rowbotham and Luke James in place of Duckworth, Bates, Parnaby and Compton.

Pools played some attractive, free-flowing football with Harewood and the dangerous Franks linking up well as the game approached the half-time break.

Bopp was again at the heart of the action, in the 41st minute, acrobatically connecting with a cross into the box but again his effort was just wide.

Three minutes before the break it was 3-0 thanks to a cool finish from the edge of the area from Walker, who sidefooted the ball past Smith after good work down the left-wing from Harewood.

A further five subs were brought on at the break, with Flinders, Austin, Holden, Walker and Harewood all coming off to be replaced by Andy Rafferty, Josh Nearney, Dan Jones, Lewis Hawkins and Kieran Green.

It didn’t take long for the away side to add to their lead, Green with a smart header moments after the re-start to make it 4-0.

Forward Franks then added two goals in the space of two minutes, the first in the 50th minute was a 20-yard thunderbolt past the hapless Smith while his second was another smart finish from the edge of the area.

Even with Pools now leading 6-0 the pace or intensity from the away side didn’t dip and they continued to push forward in search of further goals.

Luke James and dangerman Franks then teamed up well in the 70th minute to tee up substitute Connor Smith, who had come on for Bopp, for a tap in to make it 7-0.

It was 8-0 in the 77nd minute, Smith again with some tidy play on the edge of the penalty area before another low finish past his namesake.

It was starting to get embarrassing and the 9th goal came in the 82nd minute - Smith completing his hat-trick with another fine finish from the left-hand side of the penalty area after good work again from Franks.

Franks, who had earlier clipped the crossbar, was the only Pools player to play all 90 minutes.

An impressive start then but Pools supporters will be hoping their side haven’t used up all of their goals in the opening game.

Pools: Flinders (Rafferty, 45), Duckworth (Richards, 35), Bates (Brennan, 35), Austin (Nearney, 45), Holden (Jones, 45), Parnaby (Rowbotham 35), Walker (C) (Hawkins, 45), Bopp (Smith, 65), Compton (James, 35), Harewood (Green, 45), Franks.

Subs: Rafferty, Richards, Brennan, Jones, Rowbotham, Green, Hawkins, James, Nearney, Smith.

Star Man: Jonathan Franks

Billingham: Smith, Jackson, Marron (Hodgson, 90), Lambert, Hodgson, Brown, Whensley, Watson (C) (Fenby, 66), Callender, Foley, Ballentyne.

Subs Not Used: Dixon, Taylor, Taylor.