Hartlepool United's 1-0 FA Cup second round replay win over Exeter City analaysed as Dave Challinor's side progress to the third round
Hartlepool United have done it, they're through to the third round of the FA Cup and they did so by beating Football League opposition for the first time since they were relegated in 2017.
Their opponents, Exeter City, sit 36 places ahead of Pools in the English football pyramid and went into the tie as clear favourites.
The Grecians currently sit second in League Two yet Dave Challinor’s side were not only able to force a replay with a spirited two goal comeback at St. James’ Park, but they completed the job back at Victoria Park on Tuesday evening with a 1-0 win after extra-time.
Over the two matches Pools have demonstrated their potential, but must now translate it into the National League ‘bread and butter’ games.
When Challinor named an unchanged side from Saturday’s frustrating 2-1 defeat at Woking, there were questions as to whether a leaky Pools back line could keep the League Two high-flyers at bay.
But credit must go not only to Ben Killip, but the four men in front of him with Fraser Kerr, Kenton Richardson, Michael Raynes and Mark Kitching all putting in defensively resolute displays to help ensure they kept their first clean sheet under their new manager.
The hosts had to stand up defensively but it was far from a smash and grab display.
Hartlepool threatened more frequently and were the better side for large periods despite rarely testing Johnny Maxtead in the Exeter goal.
Josh Hawkes ought to have sealed the tie in normal time when his close range effort deflected onto the post as the match went to extra-time.
Three hours of football couldn’t separate the two sides but three hours and three minutes inevitably could as Hawkes latched onto Gime Toure’s splitting pass ball before clipping an angled effort into the left side of the goal.
Was it a cross? The midfielder insists it wasn’t.
Though Hawkes’ shrugging expression afterwards suggested that it perhaps wasn’t entirely part of his plan, but he’ll take it!
That proved to be the decider as Pools secured their place in the third round for the first time since 2016 as they now face a trip to Oxford United in January.