Hartlepool Utd 2 Accrington Stanley 1: At last, Pools grab precious victory

Hartlepool's Jack Compton is sent sprawling by Accrington's  Peter Murphy
Hartlepool's Jack Compton is sent sprawling by Accrington's Peter Murphy

HARTLEPOOL United recorded their first SkyBet League Two win of the season in their basement battle with Accrington Stanley.

Expertly-taken first-half goals by Jonathan Franks and Andy Monkhouse gave Pools three vital points at Victoria Park.

James Gray pulled one back for the bottom club in the 56th minute but Pools were not to be denied despite a nervy finish.

Pools made a bright start and had an opportunity just 22 seconds into the game.

Jonathan Franks swung over an inch-perfect cross for Andy Monkhouse, whose header from 15 yards went just wide of Marcus Bettinelli’s left-hand post with the keeper beaten.

Monkhouse looked a threat in the Stanley box and centre-half Robert Atkinson made a vital header from Jack Compton’s cross just as the number 11 looked in a perfect position.

Pools were lively enough early on and Christian Burgess’s ball for Luke James was just too high for the forward.

And James was inches away from putting Pools into a 19th-minute lead.

The diminutive striker raced on to a Franks through ball only for his shot from the edge of the box to go inches wide of the keeper’s right-hand post with Bettinelli beaten.

Accrington had shown little in the home half and the sum of Scott Flinders’ work was to collect the ball from fans in the Town End after skipper Luke Joyce and fellow midfieldere Kal Naismith had fired long-range efforts into the crowd.

A goal finally came and it arrived at the Rink End on the half-hour.

Monkhouse, in a central position, looked in a good position to shoot but, unselfishly, laid the ball to FRANKS, whose angled 12 yard drive beat Bettinelli and nestled in the goalie’s right-hand corner.

Stanley had a great opportunity to level five minutes before the break in a move involving both full-backs.

Peter Murphy put over a brilliant cross from the right but left-back Tom Aldred’s header into the ground from six yards bounced harmlessly over Flinders’ bar.

And Accrington were made to rue that missed chance as Pools doubled their lead in the 42nds minute.

Compton, Matty Dolan and James combined superbly down the left and the ball broke kindly to MONKHOUSE who finished with aplomb with his left foot from 15 yards.

HT: Pools 2 Accrington Stanley 0

Confidence, not surprisingly, was up in the Pools ranks and with Monkhouse and Franks at the heart of the play, the hosts looked threatening.

However, Franks’ 52nd-minute shot did not match the approach play and his scuffed effort did not trouble the away keeper.

There were strangled appeals for a penalty when Compton fell in the box after being played in by Dolan’s fine ball.

Referee Naylor let play go on and it almost led to a goal but Monkhouse’s header was easily held by Bettinelli.

And the keeper needed to show greater agility seconds later when Franks should have made it 3-0.

He had a full sight of goal on 54 minutes but shot high from Compton’s cross and Bettinelli tipped the ball over the bar.

But less than two minutes later a potential three-goal lead had turned into a one-goal advantage.

Accrington went route one and JAMES GRAY shrugged off a weak challenge from Burgess before coolly planting his shot past Flinders.

Pools boss Colin Cooper made a double change on 65 minutes bringing on size and experience in the shape of Steve Howard and Sam Collins for James and Dolan.

Jack Baldwin moved forward from defence into midfield, with Collins going into centre-half.

Howard had a great chance on 72 minutes but his right-foot shot flew high and wide after Franks had seen an effort blocked by desperate Accrington defence.

Cooper made his final sub with 15 minutes left, bringing on Nialle Rodney for Monkhouse.

Accrington manager James Beattie made his last throw of the dice on 85 minutes, bringing on Connor Mahoney and Shay Mccartan for Richardson and Gray.

Stanley threatened with normal time almost up but Collins made a great block from Murphy’s shot.

Pool were forced to survive six minutes of stoppage time, the majority of that with 10 men after an injury to Neil Austin.

But hold on they did and three crucial points were theirs.

Full-time: Pools 2 Accrington Stanley 1