Final whistle report: Hartlepool’s Great Escape is on aftr beating Oxford 2-0

GOAL: Ryan Bird
GOAL: Ryan Bird

HARTLEPOOL United won back-to-back games for the first time in over a year to cut the gap to safety to just FOUR points.

Goals in either half from Ryan Bird and Neil Austin sealed the crucial 2-0 win over Oxford United at the Kassam Stadium.

Pools were full value for the win, which heaps more pressure on the sides above them in Sky Bet League Two, with three teams now within four points.

It could have been an even better night for Pools but other results didn’t go their way.

Carlisle and Tranmere both won while Cheltenham picked up a point.

But Ronnie Moore will be delighted with his side’s effort over the past four days.

He kept faith with the same team that won 1-0 at Morecambe, as Pools looked to record successive wins for the first time in 13 months.

Michael Appleton’s Oxford side - missing top scorer Danny Hylton through suspension - started with intent, captain Scott Flinders twice called on in the opening five minutes.

First to deny Josh Ruffels well-hit shot from inside the area before a close range Kemar Roofe header had Flinders moving quickly to gather.

Holding midfielder Nicky Featherstone then almost volleyed Pools into the lead in the 11th minute.

He chested down a throw-in before smashing the ball off the upright first time, Oxford keeper Ryan Clarke could only watch as the ball sailed past him.

Brad Walker was the next to threaten, his cushioned effort from 25-yards in the 17th minute had to be palmed over by a diving Clarke.

Pools were denied what appeared a stonewall penalty on the half-hour mark, former Pools loanee Joe Skarz appearing to push Franks to the floor as he was about to shoot.

Referee Patrick Miller didn’t give anything as he waved play on.

He also denied Oxford a penalty too, Jones appearing to upend Callum O’Dowda but again he waved the appeals away.

The breakthrough came in the 33rd minute through Bird. The on-loan Cambridge United striker pouncing on the rebound from Franks’ effort to give Pools the lead from eight yards.

Ruffels hit the post for the hosts in the 40th minute, referee Miller playing on despite O’Dowda and Bird both down with head injuries inside the Pools penalty area.

The visitors survived a late period of pressure to go into the break with a deserved lead.

Within five minutes of the re-start, Pools were 2-0 up.

Johnny Mullins handled in the area as Aaron Tshibola ran at him and the referee pointed to the spot.

Up stepped Bird, his shot saved by Clarke, but Austin was running in to finish high into the net and put Pools 2-0 up.

Pools then soaked up a period of sustained pressure from the home side, as Appleton’s side looked to get back into the tie.

Roofe forced a header from 12-yards but it was comfortable for Flinders.

Bird, Franks and then Jones then all made blocks in quick succession as the Pools goal continued to lead a charmed life.

There was a prolonged stoppage after one of the Oxford forward accidentally wiped out referee Miller off the ball, the Us physio coming on to help before he was stretchered from the field.

Flinders then produced a marvellous finger-tip save to push a shot from sub Armand Gnanduillet away for a corner.

It was tight, it was tense, but Pools held firm to cut the gap to safety to just four points.

Full-Time: Oxford 0 Pools 2

Oxford (4-4-2): Clarke, Skarz, Mullins, Wright (C), Hoban, MacDonald (Gnanduillet, 86), Baldock, Ruffels, O’Dowda (Roberts, 62), Collins, Roofe.

Subs Not Used: Rose, Ashdown, Rasulo, Long, Dunkley.

Booked: MacDonald (47), Baldock (90), Gnanduillet (90)


Pools (3-5-2): Flinders, Austin, Mirfin, Harrison, D Jones, Duckworth, Featherstone, Walker, Tshibola, Franks, Bird (Harewood, 90)

Subs Not Used: Maxted, Holden, Richards, Hawkins, Nelson-Addy, Smith.

Booked: Featherstone, (53), Tshibola (90)

Scorer: Bird (33) Austin (51)

Referee: Patrick Miller (Bedfordshire) (Brian Durie)

Attendance: 4,375 (Pools 102)