Youth Team Start Season With Victory

Coleby Shepherd, Hartlepool United

Pools Youth Team defeated Alfreton Town 2-1 in the first game of their NLFA North Division season despite finishing with nine men at Welfare Park on Wednesday afternoon.

First half goals from Jack Leonard and Coleby Shepherd had put Pools firmly in the driving seat after an impressive start but some sloppy play and ill discipline almost allowed the visitors to claim a share of the spoils.

There were just three minutes on the clock when Ian McGuckin’s youngsters hit the front as Leonard’s shot from twenty yards following a short free-kick squirmed through the fingers of the Alfreton keeper to find the net.

Leonard came agonisingly close to doubling his tally when he struck the bar with a wonderful curling effort from the left corner of the penalty area a couple of minutes later.

However, Pools didn’t have to wait long for their second goal when Shepherd nipped in skilfully from the right before shooting low past the keeper at his front post to make it 2-0 on 14 minutes.

Brad Fox dragged a shot wide after a flowing Pools move and it looked as though the hosts were on for a handsome victory at sunny Blackhall.

But rather than kick-on, Pools’ play became disjointed and Alfreton began to get back in to the game, drawing a fine save from keeper Grant Lowerson down to his left.

Pools didn’t heed the warning though and the visiting side did have their goal back nine minutes before half-time when a long free-kick found the striker on the edge of the box and he rifled a wonderful finish in to the top left-hand corner of the net.

Things got worse on 40 minutes when Fox was shown a straight red card for a terrible lunge on one of the Alfreton defenders, rightfully receiving his marching orders from the referee.

The second half was a much scrappier affair and comprised of fewer chances as Pools tried to grind out the result, though Lowerson was called upon once again to make an excellent save flying to his left.

Aaron Willoughby almost made it 3-1 after capitalising on some poor defending to carve out an opening but shot just wide, before Shepherd hit a shot just over the bar as Pools threatened to rediscover their rhythm.

Centre-back Oliver Thompson was booked for a shirt pull in the closing stages and that came back to bite him a few minutes later when some dissent at another decision against Pools earned him a second yellow.

However, Pools saw out some seven minutes of injury-time to hold on for three points and secure a win on their debut in the inaugural NLFA campaign.

Full Time: Pools 2 Alfreton Town 1

Pools: Lowerson, James, Pilling, Thompson, Webster, Shepher, Campbell, Fox, Willoughby (Chapman 81), Leonard, Grey.
Subs not used: Wilson, Gibson, Sturdy, Naisbett.