Report: Exeter City 0 Hartlepool 3
Exeter City were on the receiving end of a 3-0 defeat, as rampant Hartlepool registered their third away win in a week.
Both sides went in on the back of two wins, but it was the visitors that left happiest on their 350-mile journey back to the north-east.
City came under a lot of pressure in the first half and Pools went into the break a goal ahead, thanks to a Jack Baldwin header.
The game was put out of sight by Pools after the interval, as Luke James and Jack Compton both finished smartly to put City to the sword.
The starting XI remained the same for the Grecians after last weekend’s win against Plymouth, with Bennett beginning the game as a centre-forward with Alan Gow in tow.
Matt Oakley’s omission from the bench due to an ankle injury meant a seat amongst the subs for Tom Nichols. John O’Flynn, on returning from injury, was named amongst the subs. Sam Parkin, however, missed out as expected.
Any impressions that it was going to be a quiet afternoon were quickly dispelled as Luke James latched onto a loose ball within seconds of kick-off and flashed a shot just wide of Artur Krysiak’s post.
City quickly responded and had a couple of half-chances within quick succession, both times through makeshift striker Bennett feeding Arron Davies. The first, a flick towards goal, was caught comfortably by Scott Flinders but the second – a strike from range – had the goalkeeper scrambling before flying wide.
Pools were putting on the kind of pressure that might be expected of a team that had won twice on the road within a week – and eventually were rewarded with a goal on the 20-minute mark.
It was a pair of Jacks that came up trumps for the visitors, as a ball dinked into the box by Jack Compton was glanced into the net by Jack Baldwin.
But it went from bad to worse for City as recent signing Danny Butterfield hobbled off seconds later holding his leg – there was little option but to have him replaced by Jordan Moore-Taylor.
The Grecians had few chances to get themselves level with Pools defending solidly and blocking out well – and the visitors were looking sharp on the break. Tommy Doherty was the first to have his name taken as he took away the ankles of James Poole on the break.
Luke James was nearly the beneficiary of a loose City pass on the half-way line and found himself with open grass ahead of him. Luckily for the Grecians, the attentions of Craig Woodman on the cover forced the teenage striker into pulling his shot harmlessly wide.
City’s best chance of the first half came shortly before a break as Pools were forced into a bit of last-ditch defending – Liam Sercombe squared for David Wheeler but bodies were back in time for Hartlepool to deny the Exeter winger a first goal in red and white.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Hartlepool United 1
Jimmy Keohane was introduced for Wheeler at the interval, and City were looking a bit snappier in the first few minutes after the break. But it was Pools who scored next to double the lead on the 50th minute.
And it was, admittedly, a fine goal by James that gave the visitors a buffer. It was a perfectly-weighted cross-field ball by Compton which the teenage striker picked out of the air on the run, and he had the presence of mind to loop an effort over the advancing Krysiak.
The afternoon was just about sealed up when Compton, the provider of the first two, was the man to turn in Hartlepool’s third with 62 minutes played.
A high ball into the box meant for Poole was touched away, but only as far as the onrushing winger who shouted loudest for it, and hammered in a first-time effort from a narrow angle while City were backtracking.
O’Flynn was quickly introduced for the final 25 minutes on his return from injury, with Gow the man to depart.
City huffed and puffed to try to force a way back into the fixture, but Hartlepool continued to look the likelier as Poole twice went close – the second time he bundled his way through and Krysiak was happy to see a tame shot straight down his throat.
Woodman was almost the architect of a late consolation for the Grecians as his strafing ball almost found the run of Bennett with O’Flynn in close quarters – but it just overran.
Arron Davies also had an effort as the game drifted into the three added minutes, but it sailed well wide.
Full-time: Exeter City 0 Hartlepool United 3
Exeter City: Krysiak; Butterfield (Moore-Taylor 23), Baldwin, Coles, Woodman; Wheeler (Keohane 46), Doherty, Sercombe, Davies; Gow (O’Flynn 65); Bennett.
Subs (not used): Pym, Nichols, Tillson, Grimes.
Hartlepool United: Flinders, Austin, Dolan, Baldwin, Walton, Poole (Sweeney 85), Monkhouse, Compton (Richards 79), Duckworth, James (Franks 73), Burgess.
Subs (not used): Rafferty, Holden, Rodney, Walker.
Goal: Baldwin (20), James (50), Compton (62).
Attendance: 3,615 (144 away)
Referee: A. Davies