Story of the day: Hartlepool United 1-3 Sutton United
There was a real sense of hope, positivity and expectation at Hartlepool United going into their National League opener at home to Sutton – but reality soon set in.
The recently ‘re-named’ Victoria Park was the latest in a series of crowd-pleasing steps for the club going into the 2019-20 campaign.
For Sutton, it’s been a summer of transition. The resignation of manager Paul Doswell after 11-years was always going to leave a mark on the U’s following their respectable 9th place finish last term.
His replacement, Matt Gray, would be taking charge of his first competitive game as a manager at Pools.
Things got off to a bad start for the south London outfit as they were delayed at King’s Cross Station which made them almost an hour late to arrive for their season opener.
Surely things could only get better for them from here?
Hartlepool lined-up with five debutants as summer signings Ben Killip, Romoney Crichlow-Noble, Gus Mafuta, Jason Kennedy and Gime Toure all started for the first time in a competitive game.
And less than 10-minutes into the season opener, Sutton put their nightmare journey behind them as Harry Beautyman glanced the visitors into the lead from Dale Bennett’s cross.
Pools responded brightly as Nicke Kabamba rattled the post with a 20-yard drive but with only 23-minutes played Sutton doubled their lead as Beautyman slotted the ball under Killip after the home side conceded possession cheaply in their own half.
And just as it looked as though Sutton would be taking their 2-0 lead in at the break, up stepped Toure to charge into the box and hammer in an angled strike against his former side to give Pools hope going into the second half.
The second half proved to be pretty one way traffic as the home side pushed for an equaliser against a stubborn Sutton defence.
Luke James and Nicke Kabamba both saw good close-range chances go wide while Kennedy had an effort well saved by goalkeeper Jamie Butler.
Ultimately Pools would pay the price for a lacklustre opening half-hour as Sutton sealed victory in stoppage time as Will Randal made it 3-1.