Match report: Exeter City 1 Hartlepool 2Exeter City’s League 2 winning run came to an end as Hartlepool United earned a 2-1 win at St James Park.
All of the goals came in the second half – Michael Woods’ first United goal handed the away side the lead three minutes into the second period, before Charlie Wyke doubled their advantage.
Christian Ribeiro grabbed a consolation for City, but there would be no points for the home side today.
With Jordan Moore-Taylor out of the Exeter City line-up after sustaining another broken foot at the Ricoh Arena on Tuesday, Craig Woodman came back into Paul Tisdale’s starting XI after passing a late fitness test.
Three others who came through pre-match checks were Graham Cummins, who began up front in place of Tom Nichols, and David Wheeler and David Noble, who took places on the bench. In all there were three changes to the Grecians’ XI – the other two were Matt Grimes and Christy Pym, who returned from England Under-20, having seen off Germany in midweek.
19-year-old defender Dan Jones continued in the managerless Pools’ defence having started their midweek Johnstone’s Paint Trophy exit at home to Sheffield United – his only previous appearance for Hartlepool came in a 4-2 League 2 defeat to Mansfield Town in March.
The experienced Matthew Bates, formerly of Middlesbrough and Bristol City, represented the only change that caretakers Sam Collins and Stephen Pears made to their JPT side in midweek – he came in for the youngster Kieran Green. Pools were without winger Jack Compton, who underwent knee surgery on Thursday – it was Compton who ran the show as United won 3-0 at St James Park almost a year ago to the day.
It was young Dan Jones who might have carved out the game’s first chance with a ball over the top of the City defence, but it was just too strong for the former Chelsea and Leeds midfielder Michael Woods. Jones was again involved with an attended volley as Pools got closer with three minutes gone. A Matt Grimes free-kick won by Scot Bennett was comfortably saved by Hartlepool goalkeeper and captain Scott Flinders to close the opening five minutes.
Jones was certainly busy in the opening minutes, as his dangerous strike from range forced a corner with ten minutes gone. He headed against the bar from the resulting set-piece, though the Grecians eventually managed to clear their lines. Matt Grimes struck a sweet left-footed effort in the twentieth minute.
Hartlepool defender Scott Harrison made a tackle in the nick of time to deny Jimmy Keohane a one-on-one opportunity at the halfway point of the first period. Welshmen Arron Davies and Christian Ribeiro produced some smart build-up play before the former crossed menacingly, while Connor Riley-Lowe attempted something similar on the other flank. Matt Grimes unleashed an unbelievable effort out of nothing that had Flinders pulling off a top-drawer save on twenty-nine minutes.
After Jimmy Keohane had attempted an ambitious volley after thirty-three, the Irishman was fouled by Matthew Bates on the edge of the area. Matt Grimes’ free-kick hit the wall and Hartlepool’s break after the ensuing corner was fast, threatening and, in the end, comical, as Michael Woods overran the ball out for a goal-kick and then had to take evasive action to leapfrog the advertising hoardings and immerse himself with the Exeter City supporters in the Big Bank.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Hartlepool United 0
The first chance of the second half went to Exeter City, as Jimmy Keohane got down low to head a right-sided cross goalwards, but it took three minutes of the second period for the away side to make the breakthrough. Michael Duckworth ran along Pools’ right flank delivered a cross which Michael Woods converted on the volley, his first goal in Hartlepool colours.
Ryan Brobbel was given time to set himself and attempt to find the top corner as Hartlepool mounted an offensive, before Lewis Hawkins’ drive was expertly blocked by Matt Oakley’s midriff on the line, the 93 visiting supporters convinced that the ball had come off the former Leicester City player’s hand.
In a double-substitution on the hour, Paul Tisdale sent on Tom Nichols and David Wheeler in place of Connor Riley-Lowe and Graham Cummins. But five minutes later the Grecians were carved apart at the back. Lewis Hawkins did the hard work as he retrieved the ball to the right of Pym’s goal, before feeding Charlie Wyke, who stepped inside Matt Grimes and smashed in Hartlepool’s second, despite Pym getting a hand to it. It was Pools’ top scorer Wyke’s fourth goal of the season during his second loan stint from Middlesbrough. Wyke was afforded far too much space again moments later, allowing him to bring an acrobatic save out of Pym.
David Noble came on in place of Danny Butterfield in City’s final change with twenty minutes to go. Lewis Hawkins had his latest effort when fed by Wyke on another Hartlepool break, but fired over with just Woodman and Pym to beat.
Matt Grimes and Jimmy Keohane were involved in what almost became a goalmouth scramble with fifteen minutes to go – both Exeter City players had their shots blocked, though Grimes’ had a hint of a hand about, it.
City pulled one back with ten minutes left – Matt Grimes delivered a free-kick into the area, Tom Nichols bringing a save out of Flinders by Christian Ribeiro forcing the ball across the line from the rebound. Grimes drove narrowly over almost immediately following the restart, with Tom Nichols heading over within two minutes as the Grecians leant forward. David Noble came close to chipping Flinders in the eighty-ninth minute, but the visiting goalkeeper remained resolute.
With Hartlepool now aiming for the corner flag each time they gained possession, Jonathan Franks was sent on in place of Lewis Hawkins. City still had a chance in them though – Noble set through David Wheeler, and the winger crossed for Scot Bennett, who headed over at a stretch. The Grecians’ defence parted to allow Michael Woods through, but he found Pym in the way of a second goal of the game. Hartlepool held on for their third win of the season, bringing an end to the Grecians’ winning run.
Full-time: Exeter City 1 Hartlepool United 2
Exeter City: Pym, Butterfield (Noble 72), Woodman, Bennett, Ribeiro, Oakley, Keohane, Davies, Grimes, Riley-Lowe (Nichols 60), Cummins (Wheeler 60).
Unused ubs: Hamon, Tillson, Jay, Watkins.
Goal: Ribeiro (80).
Hartlepool United: Flinders, Austin, Bates, Miller, Woods, Brobbel, Hawkins (Franks 90), Jones, Duckworth, Wyke, Harrison.
Unused subs: Holden, Walker, Richards, Smith, Atkinson, Green.
Goals: Woods (48), Wyke (66).
Attendance: 3,547 (93 away).
Referee: Darren Sheldrake