Phil Brown watches Hartlepool Utd reserves beaten at Gateshead

Phil Brown. Picture by FRANK REID
Phil Brown. Picture by FRANK REID

IF Phil Brown did not appreciate the enormity of the job awaiting him at Hartlepool United, then this would have provided sobering thought.

The 53-year-old – set to be installed as the new boss at Victoria Park before the weekend – was in the stands at the International Stadium, hoping to learn more about the players he will inherit.

It was a worthwhile exercise.

Beaten 2-1, Pools were outplayed by the non-leaguers for the majority of what was a fairly entertaining encounter, at least from a home perspective.

John Hewitson, head of youth development, took charge, with caretaker boss Micky Barron also watching on.

And Hewitson refused to shy away from the disappointment of the performance when he spoke to SportMail.

“We were very, very below par,” said the man who will lead Pools’ under-18s in their FA Youth Cup Second Round tie at Lincoln City tomorrow night.

“I’m disappointed with the majority of the performances.

“We should be coming here and competing and getting a positive result.

“Credit to Gateshead, they’ve got some good players and did well.

“But our younger players have to do better.

“It was so frustrating for me because they’ve come from my department.

“They have to come here and prove why they’re playing at a higher level.”

It was a strong Pools line-up, nine of the starting XI boasting senior experience, Evan Horwood and Ritchie Humphreys the most experienced of the side.

And Horwood, along with Middlesbrough loanee Charlie Wyke, were the sole points of cheer for Hewitson.

“I thought Evan did well at times and got forward and put some good deliveries in,” he went on.

“Charlie looked bright. He had two or three chances which he might have done better with, but he was a threat.

“But other than that we were very average.”

It was Pools who enjoyed the first opening when Horwood scampered away down the left and crossed for Greg Rutherford who, just six yards from goal, twisted his six-foot-plus frame to hook on goal only for former Pools youth-team keeper Liam Mooney denying to save.

But the breakthrough goal came just two minutes later at the opposite end of the park, Nathan Fisher jinking clear of centre-back pairing Nathan Buddle and Paul Johnson before drilling into the bottom corner from 18 yards.

Wyke was Pools’ best bet for parity and his forward burst and subsequent shot was kept out by Mooney on 23 minutes.

The same player cracked the post from a narrow angle soon after before setting off on a mazy dribble which took him by two home defenders and around Mooney.

Wyke steadied himself before clipping on goal, only for Lewis Galpin to recover and hack clear.

Fisher was tormentor-in-chief and he cracked a post before Horwood levelled with a sweeping free-kick from 25 yards which located the bottom corner.

From then on, however, it was all Gateshead.

Fisher drew a fine save from Adam McHugh and Chris Bush lashed over the crossbar after more good work from the hosts’ star man.

And so it was that Fisher – the 23-year-old forward – smashed the winner 10 minutes from time when he spun on the edge of the area before arrowing beyond McHugh who was rendered helpless.

Brown, by this point, had seen enough – there’s work to be done.

Pools: McHugh, Baldwin, Buddle, Johnson, Horwood, Humphreys, Rowbotham (Walker 72), Luscombe, Holden (Hawkins 46), Rutherford, Wyke (Boagey 60).

Subs not used: Foden, Tuck