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Hartlepool 0 Ebbsfleet 1: Smash and grab Fleet condemn Pools to first National League loss

Niko Muir battles for the ball.
Niko Muir battles for the ball.

Hartlepool United suffered their first defeat of the National League season this afternoon, as second best Ebbsfleet completed a smash and grab raid.

Totally against the run of play substitute Corey Whitely broke away to net the winner

To pour salt in the wounds, another major concern for Matthew Bates is the fitness of Andrew Davies who was forced off just after the break with what looked like a nasty ankle injury.

The manager made two changes from the side who drew with Harrogate Town in midweek - in came Paddy McLaughlin and Kenton Richardson for Nicky Featherstone and Ryan Donaldson. There was no place on the bench for Michael Woods.

It was skipper Davies who looked the most likely to score for Pools in the opening 45 - he guided a volley from a corner narrowly wide before hitting the roof of the net with header from a Liam Noble centre.

It was all Pools in the opening 45 without really knocking on the door all that much. The second half began in very much the same manner.

The impressive Kenton Richardson dug out a cross from the right, when the ball looked dead, Jake Cassidy flicked on and Luke James acrobatically flicked wide.

Then came the blow. Davies, Pools' main goal threat to this point from set-pieces, hobbled off clutching his ankle and with that blow followed the visitors' unlikely opener.

On the break, against the run of play, Ebbsfleet stretched Pools on the right and Danny Kedwell's cutback picked out the galloping figure of Whitely, who tucked into the bottom corner on the volley.

It was undeserved but another body blow to Pools' defensive unit, who were made to pay twice from the same side on Tuesday night.

McLaughlin did his best to drive the side on - he first saw a header go wide from the penalty spot then saw a smart drive parried away by Nathan Ashmore.

Despite plenty of huff and puff it was all in vain for Pools, as they slipped to their first loss of the season.

Is this a return to the Pools of old? I think not.

This result does bare remarkable resemblance to a number of similar games at the Vic last season. The key difference is that this side look a lot more capable of scoring.

Although, they showed it sparingly on this occasion.

Three without a win and an improvement needed against Braintree in midweek.