Story of the day: Hartlepool United 0-4 Middlesbrough
After coasting through their opening three pre-season matches, Hartlepool United’s match at home to Middlesbrough came at the perfect time to properly test the side.
Craig Hignett’s side went into the game having scored 17 goals without conceding against Billingham Town, Shildon and Newton Aycliffe.
Despite the Northern League opposition, it had still been a commendable start from Pools.
But their first match at the Super 6 Stadium was always going to be the game where we found out what this United side were really made of.
Boro manager Jonathan Woodgate named one of his strongest possible starting-11s and Hignett reciprocated by doing the same.
Defender Fraser Kerr returned to the side after seeing off an ankle injury and trialist Jason Kennedy was given another chance to impress against his former club with a decision on the 32-year-old’s future expected to be made this week.
A sunny Sunday and slick surface at the Super 6 Stadium was all set for a good game of football and the visitors quickly looked to take advantage of it as Paddy McNair was slipped through on goal before blazing over with less than two minutes on the clock.
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And with five minutes played, Boro went ahead when George Saville laid the ball off for Marcus Tavernier to drill into the bottom left corner from 25-yards.
Pools quickly started to get themselves back into the game and started to create some chances.
But a quickfire double from Boro in the run-up to half-time swiftly put the visitors in complete control as Rudy Gestede and Aden Flint netted to make it 3-0 at the break.
After the restart, Hartlepool continued their positive attacking approach to the game as Nicke Kambamba came close before Gime Toure saw his rebound effort cannon back off the right post.
And Middlesbrough quickly punished that missed opportunity as Saville finished off a sweeping attacking move to make it 4-0.
Wholesale changes from Pools gave them a new lease of life in the final 25-minutes as they were able to keep their Championship opponents at bay while coming close to pulling a goal back themselves. The 4-0 final scoreline was still Hartlepool’s most productive game so far.