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HUFC Women return to pre-season against Darlington

24 July 2022

Hartlepool United Women held Darlington Women to a 4-4 draw in an entertaining pre-season encounter at Grayfields. Goals from Demi Fielding, Emily Stuart and a brace from Atalia Robinson looked to have given Pools the win until Darlington levelled the game well into injury time.
Pools were under the stewardship of new boss Craig Bage for the first time and fielded a new look eleven, dealing with some player absences while introducing a number of summer signings for their debuts.
Bage's side came out with plenty of positive intent, the forward partnership of Demi Fielding and Atalia Robinson asked serious questions of the Darlington backline. Robinson would have the ball in the back of the Darlington net within four minutes but her strike was flagged for offside.
It would be the visitors who would fire first and Darlington went ahead in the ninth minute. Sophie Curle's shot from the edge of the box took a small deflection, wrong-footing the Pools goalkeeper and nestling in the bottom corner.
Heads didn't drop after falling behind and Pools were level within a minute. Demi Fielding was played through on goal and the forward held off pressure from a visiting defender before firing into the bottom right corner.
The equaliser boosted the confidence within the Hartlepool side and they sought to take the lead. Fielding was proving a handful for the visiting defence while Atalia Robinson was also asking questions, Robinson was played through on goal by Fielding but her effort was denied by a good save.
Darlington countered from this move and retook the lead, a ball over the top fell to Hattie Raine who fired a shot in off the bar for 2-1.
Again, Pools were not to be behind for long and equalised within three minutes. Jess Bage's inviting, inswinging corner was volleyed in at the back post by captain Emily Stuart to make it 2-2 in the 22nd minute.
Ten minutes later, Darlington were back in front. An underhit back pass played Raine through on goal and the forward rounded an onrushing Pools goalkeeper to give her side the lead once more.
Following this, Pools' Atalia Robinson went on a solo mission to find an equaliser, being denied by a good stop by the visiting goalkeeper before firing a shot just over the crossbar.
Robinson's third attempt was successful and levelled the game at 3-3. The ball was bobbling around 25 yards from the visitors' goal before Robinson hit a superb first time shot which flew into the top right corner.
The second half kicked off in a similar vein to the first with both sides throwing bodies forward to take the lead. A curling shot from 20 yards was comfortably saved by the Pools goalkeeper while Demi Fieiding had a low shot saved in the 51st minute.
Pools went ahead for the first time in the 54th minute. Liv Bell played Atalia Robinson through on goal and the striker slotted into the bottom right corner for her second goal of the game.
The game settled into a subdued spell after Pools took the lead, Craig Bage's side being more able to control the tempo now that they were in front. Darlington were posing questions but Pools' back four were comfortable in sweeping up the immediate danger.
In the final ten minutes of the game, Darlington threw bodies forward in search of an equaliser. Debutant Ebony Murtha was defending admirably to deny the visiting forwards while Pools' goalkeeper showcased some impressive saves to keep her side in front.
Unfortunately, the visitors levelled right at the death. With the game now comfortably over the 90-minute mark, Pools struggled to clear their lines and Sophie Curle tapped in from close range to make it 4-4.
Despite the disappointment of Darlington's late leveller, Pools could take heart from an encouraging performance with some impressive attacking play on display. The first game of pre-season was also important for establishing fitness and familiarity in a new-look squad and seventeen players got valuable minutes in the tank for the upcoming season.
Line-up: Triallist A, Triallist B, Murtha, Stuart, Keogh, Geary, Garvey, Frazer, Bage, A Robinson, Fielding
Subs: Forster, Breward, Pearson, Bell, May, Thornton

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