Pools Battle To FA Cup Win

Hartlepool United v Exeter City

Pools booked their place in Round Three of the FA Cup with a gutsy extra-time win over Exeter City at Victoria Park on Tuesday night.

Josh Hawkes smashed home the only goal of a tense Second Round replay which was short on clear-cut chances but rich on endeavour from both sides.

City arrived in the North East buoyed by a weekend victory over Northampton Town which took them up to second in the League Two table, while Pools were seeking a reaction after losing for the first time in six at Woking.

However, it became clear from the off that this was going to be a hugely competitive affair and, at times, scrappy given the wild wind which swirled around The Vic.

A cagey opening quarter of an hour was punctuated only by a chance for Lee Martin on the break for City but, after cutting inside neatly from the left, his drive flew across goal and wide.

Pools responded with a chance of their own as Kenton Richardson swung a testing ball in to the back post but Mark Kitching could not get a firm enough contact to divert it goalwards.

The presence of Luke James was unsettling the visiting defence and some typically tenacious work from the forward helped tee up a chance for Ryan Donaldson but the skipper struck his shot too high.

City enjoyed a good spell as half-time approached and Jayden Richardson came close at the far post before Martin fired a curling effort which was well parried by Ben Killip.

There was almost a breakthrough in the final minute of the half when indecision at the back almost caused Exeter’s Pierce Sweeney to deflect the ball past his own keeper but Jonny Maxted reacted quickly to kick clear.

The second half followed a similar pattern with neither side really getting totally on top, though Ryan Bowman almost snatched a fortunate opener when his attempted cross forced a retreating fingertip save from Killip.

Michael Raynes had to stay concentrated inside the six-yard area to divert a teasing cross from the right away from danger, while substitute Nicke Kabamba – on for the injured James – nodded Hawkes’ inviting cross just wide a the other end.

There was a great opening for Gime Toure on 72 minutes when he was slipped in on the right of the area by Kabamba but the Frenchman sent his shot way too high and City survived.

Hawkes could have won it 12 minutes from time when Toure got to the byline and sent a low ball in to the middle but the midfielder’s goalbound drive was brilliantly blocked.

And so in to extra-time and Pools took just three minutes to find the net. Toure turned on the edge of the area to feed the ball forward for Hawkes and he drilled an unerring finish across Maxted and in to the top corner.

After that it was all about game management for Dave Challinor’s men – and they did it expertly, though Killip did have to make one good save to keep the visitors at bay.

Pools’ cause was helped six minutes from the end when City wing-back Jack Sparkes was shown a second yellow card and The Grecians were reduced to ten men for the closing stages.

Kabamba had a shot blocked and substitute Romoney Crichlow-Noble also had the ball taken off his toe as he looked certain to score as Pools frustrated their visitors and saw the job through.

Pools will now visit Oxford United in Round Three with a trip to The Kassam Stadium on the schedule for the first weekend of the New Year.

Full Time: Pools 1 Exeter City 0 (AET)

Pools: Killip, Richardson, Kerr, Raynes, Kitching, Mafuta, Featherstone, Hawkes (Crichlow-Noble 103), Donaldson, James (Kabamba 59), Toure (Holohan 115).
Subs not used: Muir, Kennedy, Grey, Shepherd.

Booked: Kitching, Toure.

Exeter City: Maxted, Sweeney, A Martin, Parkes, Richardson (Williams 56), Collins, Taylor (Moxey 92), Law, Sparkes, Bowman (Atangana 81), L Martin (Fisher 62).
Subs not used: Visser, Jay, Seymour.

Booked: Sweeney, Taylor.

Sent-off: Sparkes.

Attendance: 2,398 (69 Exeter City)

Referee: Scott Oldham.