Pools Youth Team booked their place in the First Round Proper of the FA Youth Cup with a 2-1 win over FC Halifax Town at Victoria Park on Wednesday night.
Ian McGuckin’s men were good value for their victory but were made to work hard for their triumph during an entertaining and often open encounter under the floodlights.
Craig Harrison, Paul Jenkins and Matthew Bates watched on from the stands as the youngsters ensured safe passage to Round One thanks to first half goals from Connor Simpson and Joe Jackson.
It was the visitors who pressed first but James Sunderland’s long-range drive was dealt with by Pools keeper Elliot Stephenson.
Pools responded with a good chance of their own when a deep ball from the right wing towards the back post found Simpson who leapt between the defender but sent his header back across goal and wide.
It was a warning shot which Town failed to heed. On 12 minutes Joe Jackson drifted in space on the left and hung one up for Simpson at the back post and this time the front man made no mistake with a header back across the keeper and in to the net for 1-0.
Simpson could even have doubled his tally almost immediately when the ball fell kindly at his feet twenty yards out but his left-foot drive was held by keeper Jack Atkinson.
Atkinson was powerless to prevent Pools doubling their lead on 14 minutes though. Brilliant wing play on the right from Ryan Robinson bought him space to provide a low cross in to the box which found its way in to the path of Jackson who rifled an unstoppable shot in to the roof of the net.
FC Halifax had a chance to reduce the arrears when a free-kick from the left was only half cleared by Simpson but Eliel Anku scuffed an effort wide from the edge of the box and Pools survived.
Anku came closer as half-time approached when he skipped around a challenge twenty-five yards out to find space for a shot but this time he fired just wide of the left upright.
Simpson could have made it 3-0 to Pools just before the break when he stretched for a left-wing corner but could only prod it wide of the back post.
Town came out with a higher tempo at the start of the second period and began asking more questions of the Pools defence, which had to work harder to keep them at bay.
The visitors almost got their reward when Pools failed to clear a ball in from the right but Kevin Swales saw his shot blocked and then Sunderland stung the palms of Stephenson as Pools escaped the danger.
Atkinson had a rush of blood when charging from his goal at the other end though and almost paid the price when he lost the ball and then fouled Daniel Boyle but the resultant free-kick was charged down by the wall and cleared.
Robinson had a sight of goal when Jackson’s cross was deflected in to his path but he wanted too much time and the defender was out to block his shot away from danger.
A brilliant move from Pools down the right saw Robinson freed again to jink around the defenders and play in Simpson but the striker dragged his shot wide and let Halifax off the hook.
Brooklyn Miller got on the end of a free-kick in to the heart of the Town box but put just too much on his header and it looped agonisingly on to the roof of the net as Pools pressed for a clinching goal.
Lewis Orrell forced his way down the right wing to find space to deliver an inviting cross in to the middle for Simpson but his firm header was well held by Atkinson.
There was some respite for The Shaymen as they broke forward to test the Pools defence; Jack Knight’s drive was deflected wide and Stephenson had to make a smart save to deny the same player from the resultant corner.
Pools responded immediately and should probably have sewn the tie up when Robinson escaped through on goal but Atkinson stood tall to block his shot and keep Town in the game.
A brilliant move down the right saw Orrell spin skilfully to free Luca Murphy to the byline and he stood a cross up to Simpson whose header was tipped over the bar by Atkinson.
Tensions rose as the game entered the final ten minutes and a sloppy pass from Miller provided Swales with the chance to drive in to the box but his low shot lacked venom and was gathered by Stephenson.
There was almost a sting in the tail when Sam Clayton looped in a header to make it 2-1 in injury time but Pools just about held on to follow their senior counterparts in securing FA Cup progress.
Full Time: Pools 2 FC Halifax Town 1
Pools: Stephenson, Murphy, Cooper, Bayne, Owen, Miller, Robinson (Pritchard 84), Orrell, Simpson, Boyle, Jackson.
Subs not used: Lawrence, Leonard, Willoughby, Thompson.