Matthew Bates 'proud' of Hartlepool United after great win fails to keep Pools up

Pools celebrate going 2-1 up at the Vic. Picture by FRANK REID
Pools celebrate going 2-1 up at the Vic. Picture by FRANK REID

Interim boss Matthew Bates said he could not be any prouder of the players after Hartlepool United came so close to avoiding relegation from the Football League.

Pools did what they needed to do when they came from behind to beat title challengers Doncaster Rovers 2-1 at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium,only for Newport's last-gasp 2-1 victory over Notts County to condemn them to the National League.

When supersub Devante Rodney scored two goals in a sensational 10-minute burst it seemingly was keeping Pools alive.

At that stage, Pools had gone above Newpor,t who were locked at 1-1 with the Magpies, with the vibrant Vic faithful cheering every home touch and tackle.

But the ground was stunned when news came in from Rodney Parade in the dying minutes of normal time that Mark O'Brien had scored an 89th-minute winner for the Welsh club.

“I can’t put it into words, it went both ways during the game," said the 30-year-old.

“First half Doncaster scored, first it's disallowed and then they gave it.

"With Newport 1-0 up at half-time and us one down, we looked dead and buried.

"Then we turned it around and there was that period when it looked like we are staying are up and Newport down.

"I’m quite a pessimistic person, always have been and even when people were celebrating around me, I just thought 'there's still however many minutes left'.

"It's difficult to put into words.

“I said to the lads that I could not have been more proud of them, I could not have asked more of them. For the two games I was in charge they were brilliant.

"It was emotional in the dressing room, there were tears."

Pools went behind just after the half-hour when Andy Williams turned the ball in from close range.

At that stage, they were 'down' with Newport having led 1-0 via a Mickey Demetriou goal in the first half.

However, Pools were given a lifeline by Jorge Grant who equalised for Notts County on the hour in South Wales.

And that lifeline was duly taken, it seemed, when Rodney calmly stroked in the equaliser in the 74th minute after Rovers could not clear.

His finish on 83 minutes was top drawer after Padraig Amond found him with a swift Pools counter-attack.

For six minutes it looked like extending the club's stay in the Football League to 97 years, only for events 280 miles away to conspire against them.