Hartlepool United Women returned to winning ways on Sunday afternoon, defeating table toppers Washington 5-1 at Grayfields. A brace from Robyn Foster and strikes from Jess Bage, Emily Stuart and Atalia Robinson gave Pools an impressive and emphatic victory.
The game kicked off in entertaining fashion with two promotion contenders both asserting themselves early on. Robyn Foster found Jess Bage in the box with an inviting cross but Bage shot straight at the goalkeeper. At the other end, some sloppy Pools defending allowed Washington an opportunity on goal but Lauren Ranson reacted well to tip a shot to safety.
The breakthrough for Pools came in the 16th minute. Anna Charlton's long ball forward split the Washington defence and played through Robyn Foster. Foster charged down on goal before clinically slotting a pinpoint finish into the bottom corner to make it 1-0.
Washington hit back after falling behind and came close to levelling within two minutes of the opener. Emily Stuart conceded a foul on the edge of the box and Washington's resulting free kick came back off the outside of the post.
Robyn Foster was in superb form throughout the game and she doubled Pools' lead in the 27th minute. Demi Fielding laid the ball off to Foster and the forward's exquisite curling shot from 18 yards sailed over the Washington goalkeeper and nestled into the corner of the net.
Craig Bage's side sought to kill the game off with a third before half time and came agonisingly close through Jess Bage. Bage rounded the goalkeeper but saw her shot blocked before it could cross the line. The midfielder wasn't to be denied for long though, her free kick from 25 yards made it 3-0 in the 40th minute.
After the interval, Pools enjoyed a spell of dominance and a wealth of chances on the Washington goal. Atalia Robinson's powerful shot required an impressive save from the visiting goalkeeper, Anya Geary went close with a shot at the near post and Demi Fielding poked in on the goal line but saw her effort disallowed for offside.
It would be the visitors who would grab the next goal in the game and give themselves a lifeline in the 65th minute. A searching through ball caught out the Pools back line and while Ranson was able to block the initial effort, the rebound squirmed into the back of the net.
Pools regrouped and soon restored their three goal cushion with a goal from their captain Emily Stuart. Stuart rose highest to meet Robyn Foster's outswinging delivery and nod past the goalkeeper to make it 4-1.
There was still time for a fifth late on, Atalia Robinson picked up the ball 25 yards from goal, took a touch before firing an emphatic strike high into the roof of the net. The victory leaves Hartlepool in third place in the NERWFL table and closes the gap on leaders Washington to three points.