Hartlepool United's 4-1 FA Cup victory at Yeovil Town analysed as Dave Challinor gets off to a dream start
Not many things could have made Saturday’s ill-fated 660-mile round trip to Yeovil Town worth it – but Tuesday night’s 4-1 win certainly came pretty close.
The less said about Saturday’s events the better but it’s fair to say it added a little extra spice to proceedings for Hartlepool United going into the match.
An overheard steward briefing before the match mentioned that Pools fans could be a little agitated after travelling the length of the country at the weekend for a game that, in their words, ‘shouldn’t have been called off.’
Despite that, over 100 travelling Poolies made the journey to Huish Park which given the circumstances, is nothing short of spectacular. Quite a few may have been based fairly locally in relative terms but it’s an impressive effort nonetheless.
New manager Dave Challinor made the trip down on Saturday before his official appointment with Antony Sweeney set to take charge as caretaker. But due to the postponement, this match would now be his first as Pools boss, and what a game it proved to be.
The team had travelled down on the day, no overnight stay this time as Yeovil looked to make the most of their home advantage.
From the start that’s exactly what they did as inside the opening minute a quick free-kick almost caught Pools out only for them to be saved by the offside flag as well as a strong stop from goalkeeper Ben Killip.
But in the very next attack, Yeovil took the lead as Lawrence D’Ath blasted the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal with little over two minutes played.
At this point, Challinor’s hopes of a perfect start to his Pools career weren’t looking too bright and given the circumstances, it would have been easy for the players to let their heads drop after going behind so early on.
But their reaction to going behind was near perfect as just three minutes later, Luke James found himself with the ball at his feet inside the penalty area and finished emphatically into the left side of the goal via the woodwork.
With just over five minutes on the clock, we were level once again.
The game the proceeded to be an end to end affair with both teams really pushing forward and going for it while looking slightly susceptible at the back.
A frantic opening 20-minutes was capped by another great piece of work from James as he controlled Fraser Kerr’s perfectly clipped pass forward before laying the ball off for Gavan Holohan to slide into the goal from the edge of the box to make it 2-1.
Holohan and James are two players who’ve had to endure a stop-start opening couple of months to the 2019-20 season but seem to be really hitting their stride after being given a run of games.
The pair found the net in the 2-2 draw at Notts County in Pools’ previous away match and had linked-up again at Huish Park just over a week later.
And after taking the lead, Hartlepool had several chances to extend their advantage in the run-up to half-time. Nicke Kabamba twice came close while Kerr also headed narrowly wide as the score remained 2-1.
As United found out at Notts County, a 2-1 half-time lead is always a dangerous one if the opposing side come out fighting after the break and that’s exactly what The Glovers did.
Almost instantly, Yeovil’s Chris Dagnall drilled an effort narrowly wide to further remind the visitors that they were far from home and dry.
Pools risked being left to rue their missed first half chances as they had to weather a spell of sustained pressure from the home side inside the opening 10-minutes of the second half.
But that was soon relieved as Challinor's men broke forward well as Peter Kioso whipped in a dangerous ball from the right which an unmarked Kabamba was able to nod in from close range and atone for those chances he failed to put away in the opening 45.
At 3-1, Hartlepool looked comfortable with how they had set-up to see out the win which was effectively confirmed 20-minutes from time as Luke Wilkinson was shown a second yellow card for a cynical foul on the magnificent James, who looked to burst through on goal once again.
Yeovil were still able to create a few chances in the closing stages and ought to have pulled a goal back when Courtney Duffus somehow lifted the ball over the crossbar from a couple of yards out with the goal gaping.
That could have set-up a slightly more nervous affair for Pools but the final result ended up even more convincing as substitutes Luke Williams and Gime Toure combined with the latter being brought down inside the penalty area and converting the resulting spot kick to make it 4-1.
That confirmed a spot in the second round for United, who now face another long trip to either Cambridge United or Exeter City.
The more cynical people out there would suggest maybe a bit of karma was at play given the evident lack of effort to get Saturday’s match to go ahead but we wouldn’t suggest that for a second!
The performance and result was up there with the best Pools have managed so far this season. They scored four different types of goal and displayed a professional level of grit and determination to keep a strong Yeovil side at bay from the second minute onward.
It was as complete a performance as you’d like to see from Challinor’s side especially taking the circumstances into consideration.
The new manager was animated on the touchline and active in working with his players, always pushing the likes of Mark Kitching to push forward and attack to great effect.
Pools also changed things up and moved players around during the course of the match. These changes were proactive and proved effective given the end result.
It won’t always work, but it certainly did on this occasion.