Pools Throw It Away Again

Nicke Kabamba, Harrogate Town v Hartlepool United

Pools were knocked out of the FA Trophy in bizarre circumstances at The CNG Stadium as they allowed Harrogate Town to recover from 2-0 down to go through to Round Two.

Dave Challinor’s men looked to be cruising through to the next stage after Tyler Hamilton scored on his full debut early on and Ryan Donaldson made it two right on half-time.

Dimi Konstantopoulos – handed a second debut after signing non-contract forms – also saved a first half penalty as everything went right in awful conditions in North Yorkshire.

Pools even saw out the opening 25 minutes of the second half with relative comfort only for Peter Kioso to slice a ball over Konstantopoulos’ head and in to the net to reduce the arrears.

On 86 minutes it was all-square. A cross was looping towards the far post and Konstantopolous couldn’t gather it cleanly under pressure which gave Connor Hall the chance to fire home.

Extra-time looked to be looming but a long ball forward caused problems for Fraser Kerr and his steepling attempted clearance slipped through Konstantopoulos’ fingers and Brandon Kiernan walked the loose ball in to an empty net to steal the tie for Town.

Pools began the game on the front foot and dominated the ball from the off, almost going in front when Mark Kitching’s wicked delivery flashed across the forehead of the arriving Gus Mafuta.

However, the pressure told on ten minutes when another delivery from the left was met by Mafuta and it dropped down at the far post where Hamilton took a touch before ramming home the opening goal from close range.

Nicke Kabamba could have doubled the lead not long afterwards when he was able to turn dangerously on the left of the area but he whipped his shot just wide of the far post.

Konstantopoulos was forced in to action for the first time when he reacted well to move across to his right and palm clear George Thomson’s long-range drive as Town looked to get a foothold in the game.

However, Hamilton was proving a handful at the other end and he danced inside of two Harrogate defenders from the right before curling a left-foot effort just wide of the upright.

Josh Hawkes drilled a shot far too high on the break before Jon Stead spurned the hosts’ best chance of the half, drilling across Konstantopoulos and wide from the right of the area.

Six minutes before the break, Town were handed a lifeline when Fraser Kerr brought down Brendan Kiernan just inside the box but Konstantopoulos brought back memories of Prenton Park in 2005 by flying to his right to save Stead’s penalty and protect the lead.

It proved a crucial moment because Pools made it 2-0 in first half injury-time with a devastating counter-attack from a Town corner. Hamilton and Nicky Featherstone did brilliantly on the halfway line to win possession and feed Hawkes who drove forward and slipped the ball inside for Donaldson who took a touch and squeezed a finish past Town keeper Joe Cracknell to double the lead.

It looked as though that would be that even though Harrogate came out in more determined fashion at the start of the second half; Stead and Hall both headed over from close range and Konstantopoulos held a low drive from Alex Bradley as Pools held their hosts at bay.

However, Pools combusted again during a final thirteen minutes as they failed to hang on to a 2-0 lead for the fourth time this season and were knocked out of the competition.

Full Time: Harrogate Town 3 Pools 2

Harrogate Town: Cracknell, Fallowfield (Brown 46), Thomson (Muldoon 71), Kiernan, Bradley, Stead, Kerry, Hall, W Smith, Diamond (Emmett 46), Hancox.
Subs not used: Belshaw, G Smith, Falkingham.

Pools: Konstantopoulos, Richardson, Kioso, Kerr, Kitching, Featherstone, Mafuta, Donaldson, Hamilton, Hawkes (Toure 46), Kabamba (Crichlow-Noble 68).
Subs: Beeney, Kennedy, Shelton.

Attendance: 803 (289 Poolies).

Referee: Andrew Miller.