Pools Reserves were knocked out of the Durham Challenge Cup by West Auckland on Tuesday night as a late goal secured the non-league outfit’s 2-1 win at Darlington Road.
A strong Pools line-up including three trialists was named to play against the Northern League side, with John Hewitson placed in charge of the team.
The hosts made eight changes from the side which demolished Bedlington Terriers 7-2 at the weekend but they still began the game full of confidence.
Youngster Nat Skidmore sold Dan Jones a little short on the hallway line, which allowed Steven Richardson to run clear on goal but his low show was well clawed away by keeper James Montgomery.
Pools trialist Sidney Schmeltz fired a snapshot at goal on the volley, while Neil Pattinson tested Montgomery again from long range after a corner was only partially cleared.
Schmeltz looked positive in possession and he jinked inside to find Lewis Hawkins and the midfielder teed up Marlon Harewood for the shot but his effort flashed wide.
The front man fired another shot towards goal but just wide moments later, while the direct approach almost paid off for the home side when Dennis Knight knocked down for Ian Ward but his shot was held by Montgomery.
A lightning fast counter-attack gave Pools had the hosts on the back foot; Schmeltz sprinted out with the ball and fed Holden whose low cross found Michael Woods arriving on the edge of the box but his powerful drive was well saved by the keeper.
There was another scare for West Auckland immediately afterwards as Harewood broke the offside trap to run on to Woods’ through ball, but full-back Pattinson got back to dispossess the striker as he attempted to round the keeper.
But it was the non-leaguers who took the lead six minutes before the break when Richardson burst beyond the Pools defence and slotted calmly past Montgomery as he raced from his line.
Pools were back on level terms within three minutes of the restart when Harewood burst behind the home defence and finished coolly as the West Auckland defence screamed in vain for an offside flag.
The home side didn’t feel sorry for themselves though, springing up the other end from the kick-off and creating a chance of their own which was blasted over the bar by Ward.
West Auckland put together a neat move down the left to carve out the next chance on goal but this time Dennis Knight saw his low shot parried by Montgomery after being set up by Ward on the edge of the box.
There were close calls at both ends as West substitute Matthew Moffat came close to convertai a corss to the far post, before Schmeltz ran clear down the left for Pools but couldn’t quite find Harewood in the middle.
The Northern League men had another opportunity to win it ten minutes from time but this time Knight swept his left-footed shot just side of Montgomery’s post as the keeper dived full length.
Luke Carr was next to try his luck but Montgomery got down to his left to smother the shot as the home side continued to look a menace going forward.
And the winning goal arrived just two minutes from time when Jones was penalised for handball and Alex Francis stepped up to smash an unstoppable free-kick right in to top corner from thirty yards.
Full Time: West Auckland 2 Pools 1
Pools: Montgomery, Richards, Nearney, Jones, Holden, Skidmore (Briggs 86), Hawkins, Leslie, Woods, Harewood (Elliott 75), Schmeltz.
Subs not used: Barber, Cunningham, Varga.
Booked: Jones, Skidmore