Sun shines on Hartlepool United in last-minute win over Morecambe

JACK'S THE LAD: Jack Baldwin turns away after putting Pools 1-0 in front away at Morecambe
JACK'S THE LAD: Jack Baldwin turns away after putting Pools 1-0 in front away at Morecambe

“BRING Me Sunshine” is the well-known song associated with the nation’s favourite double act, Morecambe and Wise.

Eric Morecambe (nee Bartholomew) of course took the name of his birthplace on his way to international stardom alongside “Little Ern” but the sunshine was well and truly shining over Hartlepool United after the most dramatic of 2-1 wins.

Jonathan Franks couldn’t have left it much later to volley home the winner in the third minute of stoppage time, with just seconds remaining, to send the Pools bench, players and supporters into orbit at the Globe Arena.

His sweet, first-time volley ensured Colin Cooper’s side came away from Morecambe with three very well-deserved and valuable three points.

Victory meant 13th-placed Pools are back now to being just six points off the play-off positions in Sky Bet League Two.

And the win was nothing short of what they deserved as Pools dominated the opposition for large parts of the game, indeed Cooper’s men were camped inside the home half for much of the opening 45 minutes.

Jack Baldwin’s powerful bullet header in the 17th minute gave Pools the lead going into half-time but in truth it could, and should, have been much more comfortable.

Overall, Pools peppered Morecambe’s goal with 11 corners and 22 shots but just eight were on target, which is why the end result wasn’t as comfortable as it should have been.

Not for the first time this season Pools struggled to kill off the opposition, and Morecambe battled back and almost rescued a point through substitute Jack Sampson’s effort three minutes from time, the ball squirming under Scott Flinders.

It was heartbreaking for Pools – backed by more than 400 supporters – but the threat was always there the longer the game stayed at 1-0.

It appeared at that stage that Cooper’s team was going to enter Pools’ record books, equalling the club record from the 2000-01 campaign of the most consecutive draws in the league – five on the spin.

But Stockton-born Franks had other ideas and with literally seconds remaining, he made the most of a knock-down from a Darren Holden long-throw to volley the ball into the back of the net.

Indeed, such was the drama and intensity behind the win that it could well spur Pools onto a run of wins and it is those kind of goals that could ultimately help secure a team promotion.

Time will tell whether that pans out but Cooper’s young side – whose average age was just 22 as a result of Nialle Rodney coming in for the suspended Andy Monkhouse – showed tremendous energy, courage and a will-to-win at Morecambe.

The home side did have chances, and if it wasn’t for a Flinders double save after they’d equalised, then Pools could well have come away without anything at all.

With injury to Jack Compton – out for a couple of weeks with a tear to his right calf – and Monkhouse suspended, Cooper could have restored Antony Sweeney or Simon Walton to the starting line-up.

But instead, he opted to start Rodney for the first time since he joined the club in the summer.

Despite, at times, resembling Bambi on ice, overall, Rodney put in a solid shift and was always looking to get at the Morecambe defence – but don’t be too surprised if Monkhouse starts against Bury.

While Pools dominated the first-half, it was actually Morecambe that had the first opening, Andrew Fleming curling a 20-yard effort onto Flinders’ bar.

Morecambe’s pitch was claggy and not conducive to a passing game but Cooper’s men, to their credit, refused to play the ball long and instead managed to string together several impressive periods of attractive football.

The outstanding James Poole was at the heart of it and alongside Franks, the pair were proving the dangermen for Pools, who have struggled in recent matches to get their noses in front.

But it didn’t take long against Morecambe thanks to Baldwin’s 17th-minute net-busting header from a pin-point Matty Dolan corner.

Morecambe keeper Barry Roche had no chance.

There was a short and unusual stoppage in the 27th minute as Flinders called to a halt proceedings while he put in a new contact lens, at first he looked badly injured but it quickly became apparent it was less serious than first feared.

The stoppage gave Pools chance to catch breath and Poole then went close with a 30-yard powerdrive but the flying Roche was equal to it.

Baldwin and Franks had further openings but couldn’t capitalise, while Morecambe had their best spell of the game in the minutes leading up to the half-time break but were unable to penetrate the Pools backline.

The second half followed a similar pattern, with the Pools front line of Luke James, Rodney, Poole and Franks constantly probing the Morecambe defence, while right-back Michael Duckworth was bombing forward at every opportunity.

But Pools couldn’t find that second goal and it almost proved costly.

Flinders had to be alert and spread himself well to deny Kevin Ellison in the 67th minute but the 6ft 4in stopper was at fault for their equaliser.

With just three minutes left to play, substitute Sampson’s scuffed shot from the edge of the penalty area squirmed under Flinders and into the back of the net.

It was a devastating blow but Pools almost hit straight back.

Franks’ effort crashed off the bar, onto the goal-line and away for Morecambe to break up the other end.

First Sampson and then Ellison were denied by Flinders who made up for his rare gaffe with a fine double save to keep Pools in it.

That would prove vital.

Pools then broke forward and from a Holden-long throw the ball broke to Franks who shot low from just inside the area to score the winning goal.

There is a famous statue of Eric Morecambe in Morecambe Bay and if you looked closely last night, the chances are it was shedding a small tear following Franks’ last-gasp dramatic goal to defeat the hosts.

Mind, Eric was of course one of the nation’s greatest entertainers so no doubt he would have appreciated the efforts of Cooper’s men.

Bring Me Sunshine, indeed.