Featherstone At Double In Magpies Win

Nicky Featherstone celebrates his goal for Hartlepool United in their win over Notts County

Nicky Featherstone scored twice in the second half as Pools defeated Notts County 2-0 to celebrate a fourth successive home win and move within a point of the play-off places.

The midfielder’s speculative delivery from the left-hand side deceived County keeper Joe McDonnell just a minute in to the second period to give Pools the lead.

And Featherstone was celebrating the first brace of his senior career just before the hour-mark when his wicked delivery from a free-kick wide on the left flashed across the box and in to the net.

In truth, the result was nothing more than Pools had deserved – the only surprise was that they took so long to underline their dominance with the opening goal after smothering their visitors from the first whistle.

The game was only a minute old when Mark Kitching intercepted a sloppy pass inside his own half before charging right in to The Magpies penalty area to tee up Gime Toure who saw his shot blocked out to Ryan Donaldson who fired over.

That set the tone for a half of one-way traffic as Pools settled in the blustery conditions much better than Neal Ardley’s men, who had lost just once in thirteen outings prior to their visit to The Vic.

Luke Molyneux then seized on another loose pass to test McDonnell from distance, while Rob Harker was also denied by the keeper when he met Mark Shelton’s cross with a firm header.

Kyle Wootton wastefully blazed over from County’s best opening of the half before Pools came close to netting first through Molyneux – whose shot was blocked – and then through Timi Odusina, who nodded wide from the resultant corner.

Harker had another shot blocked and Shelton volleyed a decent effort just too high as Pools continued to dominate and the visitors struggled to get a foothold – though they did make it to the break without conceding.

However, there was only sixth seconds on the clock in the second period when Featherstone hung a cross on top of the keeper from the left but McDonnell got caught underneath it and it swung beyond his despairing finger-tips to make it 1-0.

Toure then danced in to the area down the left to feed a ball across to Donaldson but the skipper could only angle his first-time shot across goal and wide.

It was 2-0 on 58 minutes when Pools were awarded a free-kick on the left. Featherstone whipped a dangerous free-kick towards the far post and it flashed right across the area and flew in to the far corner unaided.

After that, Challinor’s side were in almost total control. Whilst County enjoyed periods of possession, they rarely threatened to find a route in to the game – thanks in no small part to Pools’ defending, which was packed with determination and desire.

Molyneux and Shelton both had opportunities to have extended the lead further, while a brilliant run from Macauley Southam-Hales deserved better but nobody could get on the end of his low ball.

The win was enough to move Pools just a point outside the top seven in what is an extremely congested National League table – but a fourth win in row at home and a third clean sheet in four has helped build some momentum and, perhaps more importantly, belief.

Full Time: Pools 2 Notts County 0

Pools: Killip, Southam-Hales, Odusina, Liddle, Kitching, Featherstone, Shelton, Donaldson, Molyneux (Holohan 88), Toure (Keena 82), Harker (Mafuta 64).
Subs not used: Anderson, Hawkes.

Notts County: McDonnell, Rawlinson, Kelly-Evans, Doyle, Brindley, Long, Rose (Crawford 81), Roberts (Osborne 82), Wootton, Boldewijn, Dennis (O’Brien 46).
Subs not used: Bird, Bagan.

Attendance: 3,839 (422 Notts County).

Referee: Ben Speedie.