Last Minute Winner Breaks Pools Hearts
Paul Gallagher scored a last-minute goal to break Pools hearts at The Vic this evening.
Neale Cooper's men had dug deep to draw level after United took a first-half lead but a late blow from former manager Danny Wilson's side saw the points snatched away at the death.
Once again Pools started brightly, showing no signs of a hangover from Saturday’s defeat at Colchester United.
And the main positive to come from this first half was that, despite falling a goal behind mid-way through the 45, Pools remained positive and did not let their heads drop.
Cooper’s side came out with the right attitude this evening, showing real battle and determination to step up.
An Andy Monkhouse cross into the box from the left proved just too much for Steve Howard but almost did enough itself as it just clipped the angle on its way out.
Antony Sweeney, looking more like his old self on the ball this evening, had a great chance to open the scoring when a freekick was nodded back across goal for the midfielder – but he put too much on his shot and sent it wide of target.
At the back, Pools looked solid as Jack Baldwin proved a real calming influence alongside Peter Hartley and again slotted into the role with real ease.
Darren Holden stepped in at left back and looked more than comfortable – making good use of his long throw - while Neil Austin was back at right back and looked bright.
And Pools looked good going forward, really testing a strong Sheffield United back line.
James Poole picked up the ball on the edge of the area to turn and shoot on goal but Mark Howard in the visiting goal reacted well to parry the shot.
After a really strong spell of pressure from Pools, typically of late disaster struck as United countered to snatch an opener.
A quality delivery from Tony McMahon the right perfectly picked out Dave Kitson and he sent a bouncing header past Flinders to make it 1-0.
But this wasn’t the end of the positivity from Pools who remained focused and maintained their pressure on Danny Wilson’s men.
Before the break, there were chances for Monkhouse and Sweeney; Monkhouse robbed the ball from the defender before sending a final ball into the side netting, while Sweeney threw himself at a Howard flick on to head on goal but the visiting keeper held it.
With the half time whistle pending, Pools went closest to leveling when a Frank corner caused problems for the visitors – finding Sweeney at the far post who saw his header held up on the line, while Monkhouse’s attempts to force it home were also thwarted and somehow United cleared.
And so despite being behind, Pools left the field with plenty to build on and with their efforts being matched by those of the fans off the pitch, the second half promised more.
Cooper’s men came out on to the pitch just as brightly as they had left it, pressuring United from the off.
The hard-working Sweeney found himself in a good position to score twice, only to lose at the crucial moment, while a great touch from Howard set up Poole to shoot through a crowd but his bullet shot screamed wide of United’s goal.
Pools, buoyed by an encouraging crowd, continued the pressure on the visitors, enjoying good possession down both flanks – Monkhouse lively down the left, Franks bright on the right and James Poole causing problems.
Sheffield United were playing a patient game, sitting deep and inviting Pools on to them and when they did counter in search of a second goal, Pools remained solid at the back – Baldwin a real rock at the centre.
James Poole left Mark Howard’s hands stinging with another punt from distance as Cooper’s side continued to look for that goal.
And then, finally, with 78 minutes on the clock, the goal arrived and it came courtesy of Steve Howard, who got his Pools account off the mark at just the right time.
A ball into the box was touched on by Sweeney perfectly for Howard to send a thundering header back past his namesake and into the roof of the net to make it 1-1.
Steve Howard’s celebration, coupled with the massive roar from the crowd gave The Vic its best moment of the season to date.
Lifted even further by the goal, Pools continued to press – now looking for a winner.
But the visitors finally lifted their game too as they began to see more possession in the final third of the pitch – meaning Pools had to keep it tight at the back as well.
With skipper Peter Hartley putting in a crucial block inside the area and Pools really working hard as a team – Andy Monkhouse reading a move well to block out for a corner on the byline.
Despite Pools’ best efforts, United pounced to grab a late winner – a real blow for Cooper’s men who had been on top for so long.
A long ball into the box was touched on for Paul Gallagher who hit a low drive through the area and into the back of Flinders’ net to make it 2-1.
Full Time: Pools 1 Sheffield United 2
Att: 4027 (615 Sheffield United)
Booked – Sheffield United: Maguire (18) Gallagher (79), Doyle (82), McMahon (84)
Booked – Pools: None
Pools: Flinders, Austin, Baldwin, Hartley, Holden, Franks, Sweeney, Murray, Monkhouse, Poole (James 73), Howard
Subs Not Used: McHugh, Humphreys, Collins, Horwood, Richards, Lynch
Sheffield United: Howard, Maguire, Hill, Doyle, Blackman (Cofie 62), McDonald, Kitson (Cresswell 81), Collins, Gallagher, McMahon
Subs Not Used:Westlake, Porter, McAllister, Long, Williams