Muir Winner Ignites Pools’ Season

Niko Muir, Maidenhead United v Hartlepool United

Pools got their season up and running with a battling 1-0 win over Maidenhead United at York Road on Saturday afternoon.

Niko Muir came off the bench to fire home the only goal to give Craig Hignett’s men their first victory of the new campaign at The Magpies’ expense.

Having been frustrated by defeat to Sutton United and FC Halifax Town during the opening week, Pools looked in determined mood as they took to the field in Berkshire.

They began the game in confident fashion and dominated possession in the opening stages, with midfield trio Nicky Featherstone, Gus Mafuta and Liam Noble dictating play.

The recalled Gime Toure was looking lively on the left-hand side too to link with Mark Kitching, while on the other flank the returning Ryan Donaldson and Peter Kioso were also providing a threat.

Pools won two corners inside the opening three minutes of the game as they pressed their hosts back but Michael Raynes headed the second of them over the crossbar.

Toure had a couple of shots from the edge of the area blocked after jinking in to a bit of space, while former Pools man Jake Cassidy drove an effort far too high at the other end.

A thunderous challenge from Mafuta set Pools on their way forward again but, when the ball was worked well for Toure, he lost his footing at the crucial time and sent a shot wide.

The home side came back in to it a little as the half developed, Danny Whitehall tried his luck from long-range but his shot was easily held by Ben Killip before full-back Rene Steer fired a decent effort just too high from twenty yards.

The best chance arrived in the final minute of the opening half when Toure again mesmerised the home defence before laying the ball on to the overlapping Kitching and his cross found Ryan Donaldson as the far post who sent a diving header agonisingly wide.

Pools were forced in to a change during the break due to an ankle injury for Kabamba so Muir – out of the squad in the opening two games – was given his opportunity to shine from the bench.

And the front man almost scored with his first touch just three minutes after the restart but dragged a shot just wide, while Toure fired over moments after driving dangerously inside from the right.

However, on 53 minutes the opening goal arrived. Pools broke quickly and Donaldson found space centrally, dribbling just inside the area before sending a low shot across goal which was parried only as far as Muir and the substitute couldn’t miss from the rebound.

Toure could have made it 2-0 to Pools as Hignett’s men continued to control proceedings but this time the Frenchman’s shot was deflected wide of the goal after some typically tricky footwork.

Muir nearly doubled his own tally ten minutes from time after a neat move gave him some space on the right of the area but he drilled a low effort across goal and wide from a tight angle.

Maidenhead threw plenty at Pools in the closing stages but the defence – marshalled superbly by a dominant Michael Raynes – more than held firm and, when there was a sniff of a chance, substitute Josh Kelly nodded a tame effort straight at Ben Killip.

Full Time: Maidenhead United 0 Pools 1

Maidenhead United: Ashby-Hammond, Clerima, Steer, Twumasi, Davies (Mensah 60), Ellul, Cassidy (Kelly 72), Upward, Smile, Massey, Whitehall (Akintunde 64).
Subs not used: Fenelon, Mensah.

Booked: Steer, Smile.

Pools: Killip, Kioso, Kerr, Raynes, Kitching, Mafuta (Kennedy 89), Featherstone, Noble, Donaldson (Holohan 85), Toure, Kabamba (Muir 46).
Subs not used: Cunningham, Williams.

Booked: Kioso, Kitching.

Attendance: 1330.