Hartlepool United Ladies closed the gap on the top two in the North East Regional Women’s Football League Premier Division with a 3-0 win over York City at Victoria Park on Sunday.
Andy Stuart’s side remain third and just five points behind Norton & Stockton Ancients and Durham Cestria as they look to keep the pressure on in a bid to secure a third successive promotion.
Jade Pye, Faye Garside and Caitlin Bates were all on target as the Ladies celebrated their first-ever game at The Vic with victory over a stubborn and competitive York outfit.
Pools were on the front foot in the early stages and engineered the first chance when Sarah Bartlett’s precise cross from the right was taken on the chest by Pye but she then sent her volley on goal too high.
Bates then whipped another ball in to the box which caused a problem for City and, as the defender hesitated, Jess Dawson stole in to prod a shot on goal which was well saved by the keeper.
The visitors grew in to the game though and looked a menace going forward themselves, only some determined Pools defending kept them out after a dangerous right-wing corner.
Bates came agonisingly close to opening the scoring after playing a neat one-two with Jenni Duffy-Smith but the prolific forward clipped her lobbed effort just wide of the post with the keeper beaten.
Pools’ top scorer Bates then created another opportunity for herself by winning possession with a thunderous tackle on the right wing, before jinking inside on to her left foot but the shot lacked the venom needed to trouble the keeper.
The best chance came courtesy of some superb work from Bartlett when she picked the pocket of a defender on the right byline and fed Duffy-Smith but, after skilfully slaloming around a recovering City player, she smashed a low effort just wide of the post.
Pools finally got their noses in front seven minutes before the break when a ball in to the box wasn’t cleared by the visitors and Pye punished them with a powerful drive from just inside the area which flew in to the top left corner of the net for 1-0.
York responded well and could have been on level terms almost immediately when a shot from the left looped over via a deflection, while keeper Becca Smith did well to hang on to a long-range drive just before half-time.
Pools could have got off to a dream start in the second half when Amy Cowan fed a ball in to Bates on the right edge of the box and she turned quickly on to her left foot for the shot but it crept just wide of the far post.
City continued to carry a threat on the counter-attack and broke the Pools’ offside trap a couple of times as they looked for a leveller but couldn’t find the decisive pass in the final third.
However, Pools doubled their advantage right on the hour-mark when the ball was worked out to Garside on the left and her deep cross deceived the keeper who could only get fingertips on it as it sailed over her and bounced in to the net.
The win was made safe a couple of minutes later when Bates jinked beyond a City defender and in to the box where was fouled from behind. The referee had no hesitation pointing to the spot and Bates got to her feet to smash home an emphatic penalty and make it 3-0 to Pools.
Keeper Smith then came to the rescue and kept Pools’ three-goal lead intact when she charged out bravely to block a shot from a York player who had done well to escape through on goal.
Emily Stuart could have added a fourth goal with around fifteen minutes remaining when she rose highest get on the end of Duffy-Smith’s teasing corner but her headed grazed the angle of cross bar and post.
Duffy-Smith and substitute Lucy Hammond-Garrington both drew saves from the City stopper in the closing stages, while Stuart nodded another corner just wide as Pools dominated towards the end.
“It was important to get back to winning ways and we’ve done that,” Stuart admitted afterwards.
“We wanted to get everyone on the pitch at some point with it being at The Vic which we did and we got the three points too so now we can focus on the games we have coming up.
“It’s been a buzz for them to play at The Vic and we’ve had lots of people wishing us well and I think York got just as much thrill from it as we did.
“You want to come and play here; it’s good enough coming to watch the lads on a Saturday but to get on the pitch itself is fantastic – it’s the highlight of the season for me.”
Full Time: Pools Ladies 3 York City Ladies 0
Pools: Smith, Cowan (Rackstraw 65), Stuart, Robinson, Garside (Lambert 73), Bartlett (Portas 65), Basnett (Bates 84), Duffy-Smith, Dawson, Pye (Hurrell 65), Bates (Hammond-Garrington 75).