No New Year Cheer For Pools
Pools failed to make it two wins in succession, losing 1-0 to Preston North End at The Vic this afternoon.
A goal in injury time of the first was all that separated the two teams as John Hughes' side failed to find a reply to Preston's strike.
Pools had a great chance to carry on from where they had left things at Sheffield United as Jonathan Franks fed a lovely ball through for Antony Sweeney to meet. The midfielder made a great through on goal but his effort was from a tight angle and was blocked out by Steve Simonsen in the visiting goal.
Hughes’ men were lively and went on to dominate this first half, allowing the visitors little opportunity to counter.
With that same fighting spirit on display that saw them pick up three points at Bramall Lane on Saturday, Pools battled hard and chased every ball down, denying Preston any real time on the ball.
Evan Horwood delivered a lovely freekick from the right that caused problems for the visitors – the ball eventually falling to Ritchie Humphreys on the left. And he rolled back the years with a cheeky touch to take the ball past the pink shirts surrounding him, before poking the ball across the face of goal, where it was knocked out for a corner.
Steve Howard and Charlie Wyke were proving a strong partnership up front for Pools, using both their height and power to maintain a threat in the final third.
Jonathan Franks and Jordan Richards combined well down the right before the latter sent a cross into the box which picked out Howard at the far post but the big striker just lose out in the air and it was another corner to Pools.
With Pools well and truly on top and half time fast-approaching, there was a nervy moment as Peter Hartley tripped Stuart Beavon inside the area. The referee awarded a penalty kick; Nicky Wroe stepped up to take it only to be denied the opener by a great save from Scott Flinders.
Pools were soon back on the front foot though as Sweeney showed a great first touch to latch onto a long clearance from the back. He passed it wide to Richards who sent another great delivery into the area – again finding Howard but this time the big striker saw his header go over the bar.
Despite the pressure from Pools, it was Preston who took the lead just before half time; a Beavon corner in from the left found John Mousinho unmarked at the far post and the Preston skipper arrived to nod a header down past Flinders to make it 1-0.
After a slow start to the second half by Pools, there was another good chance to beat Simonsen and give the home fans something to cheer about; a lovely cross from Horwood on the left was met by Sweeney in the air but the lively midfielder sent his headed high.
With the visitors clearly lifted by their late goal in the first half, the second was much more open as Pools were forced to work harder at the back as well as in their search for an equaliser.
Pools were tested with a few decent corners as Preston looked to take advantage with their variety of set-plays but, despite a couple of scares, Hughes’ men were soon in possession at the right end of the pitch.
But Preston were slowing the tempo of the game and things were not as easy for Pools in this second half.
As the mid-way point of the second period arrived, there was an audible frustration among the home fans as Pools struggled to make any real threat on the Preston goal and the visitors began to dominate.
Hughes’ side dealt with the pressure and gradually began to edge their way back into the game, putting plenty of pressure on in the final third but just not quite getting there in terms of final touch.
There was a frantic end to the game as Simonsen pulled off a last-gasp save to deny a late winner and Pools had appeals for handball waved away.
And so the New Year got off to a familiar start for Pools who went into today's match hoping to capitalise on the win over Sheffield United but ended up on the end of a narrow defeat.
Full Time: Pools 0 Preston North End 1
Att: 3829 (318 Preston)
Pools: Flinders, Richards, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Walton (Austin 51), Sweeney, Humphreys, Franks (James 83), Howard, Wyke (Poole 74)
Subs Not Used: McHugh, Baldwin, Holden, Monkhouse
Preston North End: Simonsen, Cansdell-Sherriff, Wroe (Procter 86), Kane, Buchanan (Byrom 74) Welsh, Mousinho, King, Wright (Robertson 35), Foster, Beavon
Subs Not Used: Stuckmann, Cummins, Beardsley, Elding