Williams Scores On Return To Action Against Blades

Luke Williams, Hartlepool United v Sheffield United

Luke Williams scored a stunner on his return to action for Pools as they overcame Sheffield United Under-23s in their penultimate friendly of pre-season on Saturday afternoon.

The attacking midfield man made his entrance on the hour, putting behind him a year of misery on the injury front and producing enough bright moments to suggest he can be an ace in the pack for Craig Hignett’s men in the coming season.

A series of heavy rain showers had rendered the pitch quite slick and that helped Pools to zip it around well in the early stages, with Luke James’ pace looking a particular threat to the visitors.

The front man could have opened the scoring on seven minutes when he ran in to the box with the ball after wonderful link-up play from Liam Noble and NIcke Kabamba but the final shot flew just wide.

Sheffield United responded with an opening of their own when Sammy Ompreon sprung clear of the Pools defence down the right but he dragged his low shot across goal and wide.

James was becoming a real menace for The Blades and almost set up the opening goal when he cleverly jinked in to space on the right of the area before clipping an inviting ball across for Noble but the midfielder steered a volley just wide of the post.

Kenton Richardson was linking-up well down the right and provided a lovely cross in to the middle for James but this time the front man nodded his header just wide of the target.

On 26 minutes Pools finally went ahead; a sweeping move involving James and Noble freed Gime Toure who saw his initial shot blocked. However, he chased back and gathered the loose ball to keep the attack alive and, when it was worked in to the feet of Noble 20 yards out, he hit a low curling shot in to the bottom right corner of the net.

The lead was doubled eight minutes before the break when Michael Ryanes met a right-wing corner and headed it goalwards where Jason Kennedy made sure from close range put Pools 2-0 up.

It could even have been 3-0 before half-time when James engineered yet more space on the edge of the area to let fly with a shot but it flew just wide of the upright.

Noble was impressing in midfield and his driving run and well-placed through ball gave Toure an opportunity to strike on goal but the front man hit his shot straight at the keeper.

The Blades got the perfect start to the second half though as Pools failed to fully clear a ball in to the area and half time substitute Jake Young blasted it home from close range just ninety seconds after the restart.

It could have been level minutes later when Young again found the room to have a shot on goal but this time Ben Killip got up well to make a fine save.

Pools got a foothold back in the game as time wore on though and they made it 3-1 on 54 minutes when Richardson did superbly to buy a yard on the right and his inch-perfect cross was glanced in to the net by Kennedy in the middle.

Luke Williams was introduced on the hour and he almost scored with his first touch. A lovely move started by Mark Kitching and involving Niko Muir and Nicky Featherstone saw the ball worked in to the path of the arriving Williams whose fierce strike was well saved by the keeper.

The lively Muir then saw a header cleared off the line from the resultant corner before coming close again a couple of minutes later with a powerful drive that flew just too high.

The visitors then broke well to pull another goal back with just twenty minutes left when Angello Cappello clipped a ball in to the area from the left and Young was there to steer home his second of the afternoon and bring The Blades back in to contention.

Noble could have restored the two-goal advantage when he made great contact on a volley from twenty yards but it was well parried away from keeper Jordan Amissah.

It was fitting that it was left to Williams to have the final word though when he dropped a shoulder on the edge of the area and then whipped a delicious curling shot in to the top left-hand corner of the net.

The only black spot on the day came right on the final whistle as Josh Hakwes went down with what looked a hamstring problem and an unwanted injury for Pools boss Hignett.

Full Time: Pools 4 Sheffield United U23s 2

Pools: Killip, Richardson (Kioso 69), Raynes (Anderson 69), Kerr (Cunningham 80), Crichlow-Noble (Kitching 46), Mafuta (Holohan 69), Noble (Bale 80), Kennedy (Featherstone 55), Toure (Williams 61), Kabamba (Muir 59), James (Hawkes 80).
Sub not used: Young.

Sheffield United U23s: Amissah, Belahouan, Gordon, Hall, Sheppeard (Gomis 46), Broadbent, York, Mallon, Ndiaye (Cappello 69), Ompreon (Neal 61), Westendorf (Young 46).
Sub not used: Kelly.

Attendance: 722 (14 Sheffield United)

Referee: A Kitchen.