Match preview: Play-off semi-final

After Sunday’s thrilling 3-2 victory over Bromley in the Eliminator Round, Hartlepool United travel to Stockport County knowing another win would see them travel to Ashton Gate for the National League Play-Off Final. A brace for man of the match Rhys Oates and a smart finish from Luke Armstrong saw us beat the Londoners and claim a place in this semi-final.

The Opposition

Stockport finished the regular season in third place, pipping Pools on the final day of the season thanks to John Rooney’s goal against Yeovil Town. In all, the Hatters have won two of their last five, defeating Yeovil and Wealdstone. They’ve also been held to three draws against Woking, Torquay, and Dagenham & Redbridge.

The team is led by Simon Rusk, a former Brighton U23 coach, and features names well-known to Poolies. Richie Bennett enjoyed a fruitful loan spell at Victoria Park earlier in the season, while Macauley Southam-Hales and Mark Kitching have also spent time in the North East.

Alex Reid, John Rooney, and Paddy Madden are the dangermen for Stockport, and the strikers have scored 43 goals between them this season.

The History

This will be the 139th meeting between the sides, with Pools winning 49 of the previous encounters. 32 games have ended in a draw, while Stockport have claimed all three points in the other 57 matches. This season, Dave Challinor’s men have taken four points from Sunday’s opponents. In the home fixture, Pools ran out 4-0 winners after goals from Rhys Oates and Ryan Johnson, as well as a brace from Luke Armstrong. At Edgeley Park, the teams played out a 1-1 draw as Gavan Holohan got on the scoresheet.

Team News

The semi-final is expected to come too early for Lewis Cass after the young defender pulled his hamstring in training last week. Otherwise, Dave Challinor has the same team to choose from for this crucial fixture. Luke Molyneux didn’t appear on the bench during the eliminator round, but the former Sunderland winger may be recalled if the manager decides to make changes.

Ben Killip and Joe Grey are long-term absentees.

Watch, Listen, and Follow

Due to BT Sport’s exclusivity agreement with the National League, the game cannot be streamed by either club. Instead, it will be broadcast on BT Sport 1 HD with coverage starting at 11.30am prior to the 12pm kick-off.

Mixlr commentary is available after our media team was granted access, and this week Alex Chandy will be joined by club legend Adam Boyd, a scorer in Pools’ last play-off semi-final in 2005. The striker scored a brace against Tranmere Rovers in the first leg of the League One Play-Off Semi Final, and he’ll be hoping that red-hot Rhys Oates can repeat the trick this week.

Updates will also be posted on our social media accounts, with coverage starting around 11am as the team is announced.