A stunning solo goal from Ryan Donaldson ensured Richard Money made a winning start to life in the Pools dugout with a battling triumph at Leamington in the FA Trophy.
The Pools star’s driving run and clinical finish proved the decisive moment in hard-fought victory over the National League North outfit played out in torrential rain and gusting winds.
With injury problems beginning to bite, Money made four changes to the line-up which started in last weekend’s win at Maidenhead with new loan signing Harvey Rodgers handed his debut in the centre of defence.
Kenton Richardon came in at right-back with Paddy McLaughlin restored to midfield and Marcus DInanga the preferred partner for Niko Muir in attack.
It was Pools who settled quickest in miserable conditions in Warwickshire and they could have gone in front early on when Leamington struggled to deal with a right-wing corner and the ball looped off the bar and fell to Dinanga but his low drive was well blocked by keeper Tony Breedon.
The wind and rain were having an obvious impact on the quality of both sides’ football but it was Pools who continued to look the most likely, with McLaughlin and Josh Hawkes linking neatly with the attack at times.
McLaughlin saw a low effort blocked as it flew towards goal and also saw another goalbound shot saved by Breedon after a wonderful trade of passes with Dinanga.
The breakthrough finally arrived twenty minutes in to the second half when Donaldson picked the ball up just inside Leamington territory and set off on a determined run. He picked up real momentum, gliding past the home side’s defence before slotting a cool finish under Breedon.
After that it was about controlling the game for Pools and they knocked the ball around well to frustrate their hosts and see down the clock.
The Brakes’ only real opening fell to winger Kieran Dunbar who found space on the right side of the area but lashed a volley over the bar much to the home crowd’s frustration.
Dinanga had a chance to prod in a second for Pools but couldn’t quite get enough on Muir’s wind-assisted cross from the left, while Muir himself had a great chance to sew things up on the counter-attack near the end but drilled his shot wide.
In the end those misses did not prove costly though and Money earned his first win with a victory in a competition he won as Cambridge United boss in 2013/14.
Full Time: Leamington 0 Pools 1
Booked: Featherstone (52)
Leamington: Breeden, English, Gudger, Flanagan, Mace, Lane, Dunbar, (Obeng 62) Gittings, Bishop (Dwyer 85), Edwards, Taylor
Subs Not Used: Clarke, Bowden, Hood.
Pools: Loach, Richardson, Rodgers, Magnay, Kitching, Donaldson, Featherstone, McLaughlin, Hawkes (James 67), Muir, Dinanga (O’Neill 79).
Subs Not Used: Catterick, Miller, Murphy.