Pools Pegged Back At Ebbsfleet

Ebbsfleet United v Hartlepool United

Pools threw away a two-goal lead to allow ten-man Ebbsfleet United to come back to clinch a share of the spoils on a frustrating afternoon at The Kulfink Stadium.

Dave Challinor’s men looked on course for victory when Gavan Holohan netted twice during a dominant first half and Pools’ case was further strengthened when Fleet front man Josh Umerah was sent-off just before the break.

However, Myles Weston pulled one back on 72 minutes and then scored again nine minutes from time to complete an unlikely recovery from the hosts.

Dave Challinor opted to keep the same line-up which began the win at Yeovil Town and they fought out a scrappy opening to the encounter at The Kuflink Stadium.

A bobbly playing surface made things difficult for both sides but Nicky Featherstone came close to opening the scoring when his drive from the edge of the box was deflected wide of the target.

A lovely corner routine provided Holohan with the chance to net from the edge of the box but the midfield star’s effort was saved comfortably by the keeper, Harry Palmer.

Ebbsfleet’s best chance arrived on 18 minutes when clever play on the right of the area but his low drive was well blocked by Ben Killip with his feet.

Fraser Kerr just couldn’t get enough on Featherstone’s inswinging free-kick to find the goal, while Luke James stung the side-netting with a drive as Pools began to dominate as the half developed.

And they got their rewards just after the half-hour when Holohan cleverly side-stepped a defender twenty yards out and sent a left-footed finish across the keeper and in to the bottom right corner of the net.

The hosts responded with a rare foray forward and when the ball dropped for Albie Morgan he struck a low drive just past the post with Killip rooted to the spot.

However, Pools were well on top and doubled their lead three minutes before the break when James drove past a defender down the right and lifted a cross in to the middle where Holohan was waiting to nod in his second goal of the afternoon.

The contest swung even further in Pools’ favour just before the break when Umerah tangled with Michael Raynes and the referee immediately brandished a red card for the Fleet forward.

Pools began the second half in control and within two minutes Holohan had a glorious chance to seal his hat-trick. James turned and struck a low shot on goal which was parried by Palmer and Holohan reacted quickest only to fire over the bar.

Gus Mafuta was next to try his luck as he shot over from twenty yards on the end of another flowing move, while a well-worked corner set up Featherstone minutes later but the midfielder’s curling shot was brilliantly turned round the post by Palmer.

The hosts were struggling to get a foothold as the game moved in to the final twenty minutes though a yellow card for Featherstone when some home supporters felt he should have seen red helped bring the crowd back to life.

They were further encouraged on 72 minutes when former Pools man Tomi Adeloye – on as a half-time substitute – slipped a ball through for Weston and he ran through on goal before clipping a clinical finish over Killip to make it 2-1.

Suddenly, the calmness of the first hour began to evaporate and the home side seized on those nerves to continue to pile forward and put more pressure on Challinor’s men.

The heartbreak arrived nine minutes from time when Weston’s flung a free-kick in to the box from thirty yards and it missed everyone, deceived Killip and bounced beyond him and in to the corner of the net.

There could have been more drama right at the end of stoppage time when Mafuta’s charged-down shot ricocheted across the area to substitute Jason Kennedy but his effort was somehow cleared off the line by an Ebbsfleet defender and it finished level.

Full Time: Ebbsfleet United 2 Pools 2

Ebbsfleet United: Palmer, Wilson (Obileye 50), Ekpiteta, King, Grimes, Weston, Payne, Morgan, Sutherland (Adeloye 46), Ugwu (Reid 78), Umerah.
Subs not used: Lawless, Cordner.

Booked: Payne, Grimes.

Sent-off: Umerah.

Pools: Killip, Kioso, Kerr, Raynes, Kitching, Mafuta, Featherstone, Holohan (Kennedy 84), Donaldson, James, Kabamba (Toure 76).
Subs not used: Cunningham, Hawkes, Muir.

Booked: Featherstone, Donaldson.

Attendance: 1,086