HALF-TIME MATCH REPORT: Hartlepool United v Newport County

Colin Cooper looks on from the sideline against Dagenham and Redbridge. Picture by FRANK REID
Colin Cooper looks on from the sideline against Dagenham and Redbridge. Picture by FRANK REID

HARTLEPOOL United are leading Newport County 1-0 at half-time thanks to Luke James’ 13th goal of the season.

The 19-year-old struck in the 41st minute with a low, crisp shot from the edge of the area to give Colin Cooper’s unchanged team the lead going into the break.

Neil Austin again missed out with a toe injury, so Jordan Richards retained his place in the first team, alongside captain Sam Collins, on-loan Middlesbrough defender Christian Burgess and left-back Darren Holden.

Michael Duckworth, out for a month after a double hernia operation, returned to the squad and is named on the bench.

Marlon Harewood and Luke James were again given the opportunity to continue their strike partnership, while Boro loanee Luke Williams again started for Pools.

The club’s other loanee, Jack Barmby, was named on a strong looking Pools bench.

Pools started the day 11th in League Two, while today’s opposition Newport were 8th before kick-off, just a place outside of the play-offs but with three games in hand.

Captain Collins had the first chance of the afternoon, heading just over the bar in the sixth minute following a pin-point Simon Walton corner.

Newport’s David Pipe then screamed a long-range shot just wide of Scott Flinders’ left-hand post five minutes later as the Welsh side pushed forward for their first attack.

Pools hit back with first Burgess shooting a foot over the bar from 25-yards after breaking through the middle of midfield in the 15th minute, before 60 seconds later Newport keeper Elliott Parish saved low from an effort from Richards, who had burst into the box.

Williams, Andy Monkhouse and Brad Walker combined well to eventually set up the Pools right-back but his curled effort was easily saved.

Despite openings for both sides, Pools and Newport failed to get out of first gear in the opening 20 minutes at The Vic.

Pools, in particular, were sitting too deep and inviting pressure.

There was an early yellow card for Holden, in the 22nd minute, for pulling back winger Shaun Jeffers, while two minutes later Harewood was also booked during an increasingly agitated opening 25 minutes.

For most of the opening 45 minutes, the play was inside the Pools half of the pitch with Cooper’s men struggling to get the ball forward consistently.

Collins had to clear a goal-bound Ryan Burge shot from around 12-yards out in the 37th minute, with the ball bouncing away for a corner.

Then, in the 41st minute Pools took the lead through top-scoring teenager James.

Amble-born James was presented with the opportunity thanks to good work from Walton, who won the ball on the left-hand touchline before whipping in a dangerous cross.

James did the rest, taking a touch with his left foot with his back to goal before shooting low past Parish with his right foot.

Burgess then had to be alert to maintain the lead, a last-ditch tackle after Collins had been dispossessed inside the penalty area.

Referee Trevor Kettle blew his whistle for the half-time break, with Pools leading 1-0.

HALF TIME: Pools 1 Newport County 0

Hartlepool United (4-4-2): Flinders; Richards; Holden; Collins (C); Burgess; Walton; Walker; Monkhouse; Williams; James; Harewood.

Subs Not Used: Rafferty; Franks; Poole; Barmby; Compton; Sweeney; Duckworth.

Booked: Holden, Harewood.

Goal: James (41)

Newport County (3-4-3): Parish; Sandell; Naylor; Worley; Pipe (C); Chapman; Minshull; Willmott; Jeffers; Burge; Howe.

Subs Not Used: Hughes; Porter; Crow; Zebrowski; Jackson; Jolley; Thompson.

Victoria Park, Hartlepool.

Referee: Trevor Kettle (Berkshire)