Wycombe Wanderers 0-1 Hartlepool United: Four key talking points as Pools set up FA Cup second round tie at Lincoln City
A heroic defensive effort saw Hartlepool United secure their place in the second round of the FA Cup with a 1-0 replay win at Wycombe Wanderers on Tuesday night.
Mark Cullen’s fifth goal in his last six starts was the difference between the sides as Pools were both fortunate and resolute to keep a clean sheet and progress.
Wycombe hit the woodwork three times, missed some huge chances and Hartlepool goalkeeper Ben Killip made a number of strong saves as the visitors set up a tie at Lincoln City in the second round.
Here are four key talking points from the game…
Antony Sweeney made just one change from the side that lost 2-1 at home to Newport County on Friday night with Jamie Sterry making a welcome return following a hamstring injury in place of Reagan Ogle.
Ogle dropped to a nine person Pools bench which also included striker Fela Olomola for the first time since September. The 24-year-old's previous time as part of a Hartlepool matchday squad came with a start in the goalless draw at Oldham Athletic on September 18.
In opposition, Pools faced a physical and vastly experienced Wycombe forward line including former Burnley striker Sam Vokes, Brandon Hanlan and Adebayo Akinfenwa.
A notable absentee
Someone not on Pools’ bench on Tuesday evening was first team coach Clint Hill. The former QPR defender may have only recently arrived at the club but his future has been uncertain since Dave Challinor’s departure as manager.
Interim manager Antony Sweeney confirmed Hill is ‘in discussions’ with the club regarding a potential departure.
"It’s been really difficult circumstances as well because he wasn’t in the door long before Dave left,” Sweeney said. “He was brought into the club to be part of Dave’s staff so I can only thank him.
"If he’s no longer at the club then I’ll wish him all the best.”
In Hill’s place came youth development coach Ian McGuckin, who partnered Sweeney in his initial spell as caretaker two years prior. McGuckin’s involvement at the club will be assessed on a day by day basis as the search for a new permanent manager continues.
Super Mark strikes again
Wycombe attempted to assert their power and dominance as the higher ranked side by getting bodies forward, loading the Pools box and looking to outmuscle the visitors.
Daryl Horgan had the first decent chance of the game as the ball fell nicely to him inside the penalty area and his goalbound shot was plucked out of the air well by a diving Killip.
Pools' early opportunities were limited to corner kicks but they found the breakthrough with their first effort on goal.
David Ferguson's low cross into the box deflected off Joe Jacobson as Cullen collected the ball on the corner of the six yard box and passed it into the bottom right corner of the net.
Just like the home tie, a close range strike from Cullen gave Pools a first half lead.
The Hartlepool number 9 then started and almost finished a promising counter attack for Pools as he arrived late into the box to head Luke Molyneux's cross over the bar.
Cullen has provided a solution to Pools’ attacking problems with his intelligent forward play, instinctive finishing and opportunistic positioning. Keeping him fit and continuing to get bodies around him and providing him with service will be crucial to the side’s success this season.
Hartlepool held onto their 1-0 lead at the break and were good value for it too, having limited Wycombe to few chances despite their sustained pressure.
The second half would prove to be a different story.
Within minutes of the restart, Sam Vokes headed the ball past Killip only to be denied by the right post. The lurking Akinfenwa was there to connect with the rebounding ball but his close range header looped over the Hartlepool crossbar with the goal gaping.
It was a let off for Pools, who almost punished Wycombe immediately with a fluid attacking move. Molyneux displayed good vision to slide the ball through to the rampaging David Ferguson who took a touch before firing just right of the goal from 18-yards.
A great chance for 2-0 in what would prove to be the away side’s final decent opportunity of the match, a Matty Daly effort straight at the goalkeeper aside.
Wycombe proceeded to peg Hartlepool back and the away side needed their players to stand up and be counted.
That’s exactly what happened. Gary Liddle appeared to have a cheat sheet to the game as he read and stopped almost everything Wycombe threw his way.
Zaine Francis-Angol and Neill Byrne either side of him were impervious as part of a team-wide defensive effort for the final 40-minutes.
Vokes continued to remain a threat as he headed over from a Jordan Obita cross before hitting the woodwork for the second time with 18-minutes of normal time remaining.
There were shades of the National League play-off final as Pools tried desperately to cling on to their slender lead with Wycombe applying the pressure and sending goalkeeper David Stockdale up in search of a late equaliser.
But instead of more late heartbreak, the post would come to Pools’ rescue again deep into stoppage time as a penalty area scramble saw David Wheeler hit the post before the ball deflected back off Sterry and just wide for a Wycombe corner.
Hartlepool were able to hang on and secure their second away win of the season. It is also the first time the club has ever knocked out a higher division opponent in the FA Cup on their own patch at the 36th attempt – thanks to In The Mad Crowd for that pearl of a stat.
All in all, the impressive Tuesday night away following went home happy as Pools banked £22,629 in prize money and booked a trip to Lincoln on December 4 (3pm kick-off).