JOHN Hewitson declared himself “proud” of his players after Hartlepool United crashed out of the FA Youth Cup 3-1 at Sheffield United last night.
With Connor Smith – who has shone at First Team level over recent weeks – in great form, Pools took the game to the Blades at Bramall Lane.
Smith struck the only away goal in the second period to level matters, but the home side struck twice for a hard-fought victory.
“I’m proud of their efforts and work rate, especially given we’re such a young team,” Hewitson told the Pools website.
“I just think our game management could have been better and we were a little naïve at times – we needed to be a bit smarter, particularly when we got it back to 1-1.
“I think some of the lads got a little bit giddy when we scored our goal when we should have been looking to settle things down and be more composed.
“Having said that, we played some good stuff at times and I thought Connor Smith and Jack Blackford were outstanding but it’s so disappointing to come to a place like Bramall Lane, play well and go away with nothing.”
Pools were all over the Yorkshire side in a whirlwind opening, striking the crossbar in the first minute.
Callam Wood and Kieran Green were both denied by the woodwork while Blades goalkeeper Jake Eastwood also had to claw away Blackford’s corner after a mis-kick by Shea Gordon, who made amends on 16 minutes when he headed Wood’s back post header off the line.
However, Pools, for all their threat, couldn’t make it count and the opening period finished goalless.
The Blades began the second half well, Jake Wright shooting wide on 48 minutes and James Dawson saved well for the away team after Dan Cockerline was put clear.
But United took the lead just after the hour when Gordon’s corner was powerfully headed home by Wright.
However, Pools squared matters on 75 minutes when they broke quickly from a home corner, Smith getting the better of three home defenders to drive his shot in to the bottom corner of the net.
Pools would have fancied themselves to have pushed on from there, but the hosts regained the lead in just five minutes when Danny Ramsey slotted past Dawson.
Hewitson’s team pressed for an equaliser in the closing stages, with Blackford a threat.
And the hosts wrapped up the win in stoppage time when the referee ruled that O’Shaye Giraud-Hutchinson was fouled in the box and Jamie Hinchcliffe sent Dawson the wrong way from the spot.
Pools: Dawson, Carr, Howes (Varga 85), Green, Turnbull, Male, Armstrong, Jewson, Wood, Smith, Blackford. Subs not used: Cunningham, Elliot, Skidmore, Briggs.