Pools upset all of the odds this afternoon with a well-deserved 3-2 victory over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
A first-half goal from Steve Howard set the ball rolling after just 5 minutes but the hosts were level before the break.
This was a determined Pools’ side though and a strong second-half display saw a Ritchie Humphreys goal and a second for Howard bring to an end the 22-game run without a win.
While it was the hosts who burst out of the blocks, it was Pools who enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges.
Hughes’ men looked full of positivity and were battling hard against the league leaders.
And then, with just 5 minutes played, a great delivery from Evan Horwood on the left found Steve Howard in the perfect position to nod home past George Long, giving Pools an early 1-0 lead.
Pools’ bright start could have been bettered when great work by the lively Charlie Wyke saw the ball played through for the busy Jonathan Franks but his final effort went over the bar.
Minutes later and Pools were on the attack again; this time a sublime volleyed pass from Simon Walton picked out Howard but this time the big striker sent his effort just over Long’s bar.
While Pools were looking bright going forward, they were being busy off the ball and making sure the hosts were pressed in possession.
Danny Wilson’s men did begin to up their pressure and Ryan Flynn had a good chance to level the scores when he latched onto a clearance to send a powerful ball back in but his effort screamed across the face of goal.
Scott Flinders then came to the rescue for Pools, pulling off a great save to deny Nick Blackman with a fierce shot from just inside the box.
On the half hour mark, the hosts did draw level as a powerful strike from Michael Doyle sailed through the area towards Flinders. And, although the Pools’ keeper got a touch on the strike, it was not enough to keep it out and the Blades were level.
While the hosts remained a threat, Pools remained positive and worked hard to keep things all square in the run-in to half time.
After some early second-half pressure, Sheffield United had the ball in the back of the net again but fortunately the assistant’s raised flag ruled the effort out and Pools were afforded a let-off.
There was something of an early onslaught from the hosts but Pools came out the other side to take advantage with a second goal of their own.
And the goal came courtesy of Pools’ former Sheffield Wednesday man Ritchie Humphreys who finished off a decent move forward with a low poke home from inside the area to make it 2-1.
Hughes’ men were obviously lifted by the ball and continued to pressure the hosts – much to the increasing frustration of the home fans.
A great ball out by Flinders fond Franks on the left as Pools began their search for the third goal.
Franks laid the ball back to Horwood who played a perfect pass forward for James Poole and the sub sent a lovely cross into the area which found Howard ready to pounce. And the big striker did just that as he powered a header past Long to make it a deserved 3-1 to his side.
The remainder of the game was a nervy time for Pools as they had to contend with the hosts throwing everything forward in search of a way back into the game.
But this was a determined display from Pools and they were unwilling to let this unlikely lead slip – defending in numbers and battling hard for every ball.
Five minutes of added time prolonged the tension but Pools held on for a well-deserved, hard-earned victory, the first win for John Hughes at Pools and the first defeat for the Blades at Bramall Lane this season.
The hosts grabbed a very late second goal but the victory belonged to Pools.
Full Time: Sheffield United 2 Pools 3
Booked: Collins (68), Hartley (70), Monkhouse (88), Poole (89)
Pools: Flinders, Richards, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Humphreys, Walton (Austin 69), Sweeney, Franks (Monkhouse 80), Wyke (Poole 60), Howard
Subs: McHugh, Baldwin, Holden, James
Sheffield United: Long, Westlake, Maguire, Hill, Flynn, Doyle (Cresswell 82), Blackman, McDonald, Kitson (Ironside 82), Cofie (Chapell 67), Williams
Subs: McAllister, Philliskirk, Kennedy, Coyne