Hartlepool Utd win is no walk in the (Bradford) Park (Avenue)

Matchwinner Jonathan Franks in action against Bradford Park Avenue. Picture by FRANK REID
Matchwinner Jonathan Franks in action against Bradford Park Avenue. Picture by FRANK REID

TWO games, two wins, 10 goals and zero conceded.

So far, so good, then for Hartlepool United who beat Conference North side Bradford Park Avenue 1-0 thanks to a well-worked goal from Jonathan Franks.

Clearly Pools fans won’t be getting too excited – given the strength of opposition – and there is plenty to improve on in the coming weeks.

Colin Cooper has always stressed the most important game is Stevenage away on Saturday, August 9, the opening game of the new League Two campaign.

Everything in between is geared to ensuring the players are fit, first and foremost, and firing on all cylinders when the real action begins.

In truth, the performance against Park Avenue wasn’t really up to scratch, lacking the attacking zest of the 9-0 Billingham Town mauling, but this was a different kind of test.

John Deacy’s side are no mugs, they were well organised and played some attractive football at times and Pools had to work hard for the win.

It was also a good game for Cooper and assistant manager Stephen Pears to assess trialists Biko Bradnock-Brennan and midfielder Eugen Bopp, who started, and Tommy Miller and Michael Woods, who came on after an hour.

Bradnock-Brennan played the full match and impressed, the former Blackpool youth team player was vocal throughout, strong, well organised and covered for Matthew Bates on the rare occasions he was beaten.

Afterwards he was deep in conversation with Cooper and Pears before the players got on the coach home.

Bopp, meanwhile, looked tidy in possession with several short passes but lacked any purpose in the final third and hardly wowed the watching Pools supporters.

Whether he is better than the midfielders already at the club is up for debate but it is certainly an area Cooper needs to strengthen.

Ex-Pools and Sunderland midfielder Miller was the pick of the bunch when he came on as a sub on the hour mark.

Neat and tidy in possession, Miller passed it well and was always encouraging the younger players.

His game has changed in recent years and while he is no longer as much of a goal threat, he still has plenty to offer in the engine room.

Woods, meanwhile, showed a good range of passing but was probably too eager at times with a couple of ambitious long-range passes.

He did look sharp though and was quick in his movement, certainly one worth having a closer look at in the next week or so.

Captain for the day was Michael Duckworth, who joined Pools from Park Avenue last summer and it was his former side that started brightly at a humid Horsfall Stadium, in front of around 150 fans.

Two minutes in Scott Flinders was forced into making a smart block after Joe Colbeck found himself in between Bates and Bradnock-Brennan.

It was always going to be a harder game than Billingham Town and so it proved.

Colbeck was then given the freedom of the Horsfall Stadium in the 14th minute, running clear before firing a shot along the ground and into the hands of Flinders.

Cooper’s men took a while to get going and clear chances were few and far between.

Marlon Harewood - who did impress with his hunger for the ball - was unlucky 20 minutes in.

The striker charging down a John Maxsted clearance inside the penalty area but the bounce fell kindly for the keeper.

Harewood then headed over the bar with 35 minutes on the clock.

The game lacked intensity, pace and width but it was a good physical work out for Pools.

Yet it was Park Avenue who continued to look the more likely to score - Colbeck again firing wide.

Moments before half-time, Brad Walker shimmied to his left on the edge of the area before dragging his shot wide of the right-hand post.

It was a scrappy first half from Pools but there was more purpose and attacking threat in the second-half.

Teenage striker Luke James stretched his legs five minutes into the re-start, running a good 25-yards with the ball through the heart of Park Avenue.

Unfortunately for the 19-year-old, defender Sam Hewitt produced a great challenge before James could let rip.

Bopp got the rebound but his low shot was gathered by Tom Morgan, one of several half-time subs for the home side.

On the hour mark Cooper made wholesale changes with Jordan Richards, Darren Holden, Josh Rowbotham, Miller, Woods and Franks all coming on.

Pools instantly looked more threatening with Franks seeing a fiercely struck shot defected wide.

Pools then took the lead in the 78th minute, thanks, finally, to some width and forward running.

Neil Austin played a long ball down field to Holden who found himself in space on the touchline.

The left-back then rolled a perfect ball across to the on-rushing Franks who stroked the ball into the right-hand corner of the net - building on the brace he scored against Billingham.

Cooper made two final subs, Connor Smith on for James and Dan Jones replacing Austin, who needed an ice pack on his right foot as a precaution.

Tempers threatened to boil over in the final few minutes after a rash challenge on Harewood on the half-way line, the striker then getting involved with the Park Avenue players, but proceedings were soon underway again.

It was an improved second-half from Pools, who just about did enough to justify the 1-0 win.

Pools: Flinders (Rafferty, 45), Austin (Jones, 84), Duckworth (C) (Richards, 60), Brennan, Bates (Holden, 60), Walker (Rowbotham, 60), Bopp (Miller, 60), Compton (Woods, 60), Parnaby (Franks, 60), Harewood, James (Smith, 84).

Subs Not Used: Nearney, Collins, Hawkins.

Goal: Franks (78)

Star Man: Marlon Harewood

Bradford Park Avenue (First Half): Maxsted, Black, Drury, Turner, Qualter, Mallory, Colbeck, Hotte, Chilaka, Walker, James.

Second Half: Morgan, Howarth, Miller, Kerr, Hewitt, Hotte, Frost, Turner, Barraclough, Marshall, Walker.