Hartlepool United Women got off to a winning start to their 2022-23 NERWFL Northern League season, defeating Spennymoor Town 3-2 in an entertaining encounter at Grayfields. Atalia Robinson netted a hat trick for Pools, including a dramatic late winner.
The victory was new boss Craig Bage's first competitive match in charge. He was supported in the dugout by two new coaching appointments, Marty Clennett and Dan Booty.
Pools started the stronger of the two sides and fired some early warning shots at the Moors goal. Atalia Robinson had the first attempt of the game five minutes in, shooting over the bar from 25 yards. Emily Stuart came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock in the 10th minute with a header that struck the top of the crossbar.
Craig Bage's side continued to push forwards and ask questions of Spennymoor. Jess Bage's free kick from 40 yards forced the visiting keeper into action, Jussy Robinson struck an ambitious effort wide and Zara Johnson hit a looping volley that was well saved.
Eventually, Pools' dominance told and they went ahead in the 36th minute. Atalia Robinson worked her way past four opposition defenders before firing low past the goalkeeper to make it 1-0.
After the break, Spennymoor came out determined to level the game. Pools keeper Lauren Ranson had to be alert to protect her side's advantage, the visitors swung the ball into the box from the right and Ranson reacted fantastically to tip a close range shot wide.
Spennymoor seized their momentum to equalise in the 57th minute. A long throw bounced into the six yard box and Katy Hemmingway's header looped over Ranson to make it 1-1.
Pools responded immediately to regain their advantage. Atalia Robinson was fouled 30 yards from goal and the striker took the resulting free kick, hitting a powerful strike into the top right corner past a helpless Moors goalkeeper.
After retaking the lead, Pools looked to slow the tempo of the game and frustrate their opponents. Bage's defensive tactics looked to be working as Spennymoor enjoyed the bulk of possession without creating anything clear-cut. The hosts headed into injury time holding onto their 2-1 lead.
The match finished in exhilarating fashion with two goals in the space of two injury time minutes. Spennymoor looked set to take a point when they made it 2-2, the Pools backline suffered a lapse of concentration and allowed an unmarked Drew Seymour to tap past Ranson from Hannah Knox's cross.
However, there was still time for one final twist with standout performer Atalia Robinson having the final say on proceedings. Demi Fielding laid the ball on to her strike partner and Robinson hit a first time strike past the goalkeeper to send Grayfields wild and give Pools their first win of the new season.