Match report: Hartlepool 2 Exeter City 1Exeter City’s hopes of reaching the play-offs were finally ended on the penultimate weekend of the 2014/15 season, as the Hartlepool United were 2-1 victors at Victoria Park.
With scores elsewhere in the division going against Exeter, the result at Victoria Park was of little consequence in reality but it wasn’t through any lack of effort that the Grecians were unable to secure the right result.
Scott Fenwick had Pools ahead very briefly, only for Graham Cummins to level from a Liam Sercombe corner.
But the score was finalised before the interval as Jordan Hugill was slipped in to net the home side’s second.
Graham Cummins and Alex Nicholls came in to start at Victoria Park, while Clinton Morrison and David Wheeler began on the bench. The third change came in between the posts, as James Hamon got the nod ahead of Christy Pym, whose injury consigned him to the bench.
During the opening exchanges the ball spent its fair share of time in the air as the two sides probed on a damp afternoon. However that meant neither side could get the ball down in shooting positions and neither goalkeeper was really tested.
But both teams were battling hard and a late and forceful challenge by Jordan Hugill brought the game’s first card, as a less-than-impressed Scot Bennett was scythed down on the flank.
The conditions always looked destined to play their part and indeed that proved to be the case after quarter of an hour – a hopeful ball forward from the home side looked like it was coming to nothing, but an untimely slip on the wet turf by Scot Bennett allowed Fenwick to steal in and poke past Hamon.
The lead was short-lived though – it was a bit of high pressing from Nicholls that gifted a corner to City as the panic-button was pressed. From there, birthday-boy Liam Sercombe delivered a peach of a cross for the unmarked Cummins, whose header was turned around the post by a flying Scott Flinders save.
However from the next corner it was the same combination but a different outcome; this time Cummins’ header had too much power and beat the outstretched arm of the goalkeeper.
Pools nearly took the lead again, but for a terrific save by Hamon. It was Dan Jones that was afforded space to advance from the left full-back position and hung up a cross to the back post for Fenwick to volley, but the goalkeeper had his angles covered and stuck a leg out to block.
City were defending well and battling high upfield, but the next opportunity of note came the way of the home side as a deep free-kick into the box was cleared into the path of Jonathan Franks, who hit over on the half-volley.
Some terrific interplay in midfield under pressure saw City looking cool on the ball, and then with one pass Ryan Harley released Sercombe down the middle, but he pulled his shot just over the bar as he shifted onto his left foot as he approached the edge of the area.
And in the final minute of the first half, the pendulum swung back in Hartlepool’s favour – City conceded possession in their own half, and a well-weighted ball from Aaron Tshibola for Hugill saw the striker take a touch before dispatching a left-footed strike for the home side’s second.
Half-time: Hartlepool United 2 Exeter City 1
Wheeler was introduced into action at the half-time interval, with Nicholls the man to make way.
The home side were looking full of beans and came close to extending their lead when defender Dan Jones rose to meet Jack Compton’s corner, but it sailed over the bar.
Hugill was next to go close as a left-flank cross was met with a back-post header, but saved and held by Hamon.
City rode the pressure well and again began to see more of the ball – and then Wheeler was just denied space to shoot after winning the ball high upfield.
Nichols and Morrison were both introduced for the Grecians to add a different attacking dimension for the final quarter of the game. That meant Davies moved into midfield as Exeter committed bodies forward.
However Davies was back in a good position to make an important block from Fenwick, shortly after defender Jordan Moore-Taylor had blocked out Franks.
Exeter had a couple of opportunities to level – firstly a dangerous Davies delivery from the left fell into Morrison, but he couldn’t get enough contact as he stretched.
Then Moore-Taylor rose well at the far post to head towards goal but his effort was blocked out.
Sub Nichols might have levelled but it needed a well-timed tackle from Neil Austin to prevent him getting the shot off.
And ultimately City couldn’t break down the defensive barrier as the Pools claimed an important win for their own survival ambitions.
Full-time: Hartlepool United 2 Exeter City 1
Hartlepool United: Flinders; Harrison, Bates, D.Jones; Austin, Featherstone, Tshibola, Compton (Miller 80); Franks, Hugill (Harewood 67), Fenwick.
Unused subs: Maxted, Duckworth, Walker, Nelson-Addy, J.Jones.
Goals: Fenwick (16), Hugill (45).
Exeter City: Hamon; Davies, Bennett, Moore-Taylor, McAllister; Sercombe, Oakley, Harley, Keohane (Nichols 67); Nicholls (Wheeler 46), Cummins (Morrison 64).
Unused subs: Pym, Butterfield, Tillson, Jay.
Goal: Cummins (18).
Attendance: 4,994 (149 away).
Referee: Carl Boyeson