DEFEAT may have ended silverware hopes for Hartlepool United’s reserves but it didn’t hamper their first team chances.
A 2-0 reverse at Wigan in the semi-final of the Final Third Development League Cup yesterday meant exit from the competition for a youthful Pools side mixed with trialists.
But as the team’s coach John Hewitson pointed out by reeling off the present members of the first team squad, eye-catching performances in the reserves will be merited with league selection by Colin Cooper.
And, aside from a jittery opening 15 minutes in which the Latics took the lead through Jack Phillips, the visitors acquitted themselves well.
The hosts’ early goal did not escalate into a rout as Pools “grew into the game and grew in confidence.”
Hewitson said: “We looked stronger as the game went on and passed the ball better.
“We had a team of teenagers who have done very well against Championship players who are 24, 25 playing in a reserve game.
“It gives them the opportunity to show the manager what they can do.
“Some clubs bottle-neck their reserve players but Colin is fantastic in that if they’re good enough they’ll be in the team.”
Hewitson found solace in Pools’ endeavour to attack but, ironically, the tournament’s title is what amounted to defeat – failings in the final third.
That applies to none more so than Greg Rutherford who squandered a one-on-one chance after being teed up by Dylan Armstrong.
Hewitson reflected: “They were a little bit better in the way they passed the ball in the first 10, 15 minutes but once we matched them only our end product, and final third, let us down.
“Greg went around the keeper instead of slotting it in and he hit it wide of the target.”
The consequence of that miss proved decisive.
“The sucker punch came straight after when they scored soon after Greg missed,” Hewitson said of Sam Cosgrove’s match-clinching header 11 minutes from time.
There were, let it not be overlooked, positives for Pools.
Hewitson singled out Dan Jones and Jonny Carter for their performances at centre-back and left-back respectively whilst Connor Smith’s introduction brought energy and enthusiasm to the midfield.
Callam Wood came close from a free-kick and Jordan Richards almost volleyed an equaliser.
Hewitson added: “We are over the moon with how the lads have developed and Sam Collins has been great helping out.
“They have come on leaps and bounds and it’s the first semi-final since I have been here.
“Wigan are a Championship club with good resources but I wouldn’t say there was a major difference between the two squads. I was really pleased from a club perspective.”
Pools: Barber, Richards, Carr, Hawkins, Jones, Rowbotham, Rutherford, Taylor (Green 65), Wood (D Armstrong 56), J Armstrong, L Armstrong (Smith 60). Subs not used: Provett, Wright.