Pools thrash Bradford City: Craig Hope’s match analysis

Nialle Rodney, Jack Compton, Jonathan Franks, Luke James and Christian Burgess who scored a goal each during the 5-0 win over Bradford City. Picture by FRANK REID
Nialle Rodney, Jack Compton, Jonathan Franks, Luke James and Christian Burgess who scored a goal each during the 5-0 win over Bradford City. Picture by FRANK REID

IF ever a total was befitting of the videprinter brackets reserved for the barely believable, then this was it.

Hartlepool United 5 (FIVE).

This is a team who, in some recent outings, have seldom done shots, let alone goals.

But last night the proverbial floodgates opened, Colin Cooper’s side pouring forward to drown their hosts during what was a scintillating display.

That the five-goal show arrived to the backdrop of seven-and-a-half hours without score in the league merely served to amplify the incredulous feeling which descended every time the ball nestled on lace.

It was heart-racing stuff from a side which barely mustered a pulse at Torquay United on Saturday.

Even Cooper was caught for breath during the early part of his post-match reflection, retelling the pulsating narrative of that second-half blitz.

But his rhythm relaxed somewhat when it came to the origin of such joy, for Cooper realised that without Luke James’ first-half opener then the story may not have unfolded as it delightfully did.

Because, for 24 minutes, Pools were on the back foot, a worrying continuation of their Torquay toil.

But goals change games.

And, for the first time in seven matches, Pools seized a lead.

Jon Franks scampered clear down the right and loaded a cross to the far post.

Jack Compton returned the ball to the fringe of the six-yard area and James, having recently shed his teenage mop, used his razor-sharp brow to apply a razor-sharp finish.

All inside the Vic glanced first to the linesman – nothing – and then the referee – was it really a goal?

Yes. Hartlepool United 1 (ONE).

Never has the significance of a score been so palpable inside a football ground – weeks and weeks of goal-famine frustration released in an almost-disbelieving roar.

It was the footballing equivalent of finally hearing your flight called after a series of 90-minute delays – right then, let’s get this journey started.

And boy did Pools take off.

James crossed for Andy Monkhouse who directed a flying header on goal. Saved.

The teenage tormentor then wriggled free of three orange jerseys, only a last-ditch deflection denying him a stunning second.

The interval did little to ground the hosts.

In fact, during the break they appeared to fire up another engine.

Franks made it two within 90 seconds of the restart, lashing in at the second attempt from 16 yards.

Christian Burgess then rose to apply the headed finish which Compton’s enticing whip had deserved.

And, by the hour mark, creator Compton had a goal of his own.

James, weaving into the area, was felled by Ricky Ravenhill and his team-mate did the rest from the spot, lashing into the top corner.

Cooper felt it fitting that Compton’s first goal for the club had come against his former employers, and that was a trick repeated by substitute Nialle Rodney three minutes from time.

The ex-Bantam had slipped and stumbled his way through the first 20 minutes of his late cameo.

But there was nothing shoddy about his finish, twisting his frame to hook an overhead kick into the bottom corner after Franks had delivered.

Not that the evening needed crowning, but it was nonetheless a fine finale.

Pools had scored five for the first time in as many years.

They had humbled opponents from a higher division – who last conceded five in this year’s League Cup final defeat to Swansea City, don’t forget – and, for the first time in three seasons, had advanced beyond the first stage of a cup competition.

But Cooper refused to get caught up in any of the above.

The here and now is his concern.

He knows how significant this victory might yet prove and he knows that, without James’ first-half effort, all could have been very different.

They say goals change games.

That one could well change a season.