Portsmouth 1 Hartlepool Utd 3: Greg makes sure of Pools’ superb win

Hartlepool's players celebrate today's superb win at Fratton Park. Picture by Frank Reid.
Hartlepool's players celebrate today's superb win at Fratton Park. Picture by Frank Reid.
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HARTLEPOOL United emerged victorious in the battle of the basement thanks to a hard-fought 3-1 triumph at Portsmouth, writes Craig Hope.

Manager John Hughes had stated before the game that nothing less than three points would suffice against the side one place above them in League One.

And his boys duly delivered thanks to goals from Jack Baldwin, James Poole and a first senior strike for substitute Greg Rutherford.

The Scot was made to sweat it out during the final 25 minutes after Jed Wallace had halved arrears, but Pools held firm and teenager Rutherford sealed victory in stoppage time to move Pools within five points of second-bottom Pompey.

Hughes was forced into two changes before the game with Baldwin and Poole coming in for knee victims Tony Sweeney and Steve Howard.

The first sight at goal belonged to Pools but when Sam Collins headed into the path of centre-back partner Peter Hartley from a half-cleared corner, the skipper ballooned over the crossbar from 18 yards.

Pools full-back Evan Horwood was the first to locate the target, albeit with the aid of a deflection, when he steamed onto a loose ball 20 yards out before seeing his effort snaffled by Simon Eastwood.

Pompey responded and went straight up the other end in breakaway fashion and Shaun Cooper stung the palms of Scott Flinders when levelling towards the bottom corner from 25 yards.

The visitors failed to clear the danger and Baldwin was penalised for a sliding trip on Jed Wallace.

Dan Butler took aim for the top corner from 20 yards but again it was the gloves of Flinders which came between them and an opener.

The Pools No.1 was in inspired form and he had to be.

With the game not even 20 minutes old he was then forced into a pair of instinctive saves to first deny Darel Russell and then David Connolly, on both occasions clawing clear from just inside the upright.

But the opener came the way of Pools and it was teenager Baldwin who rose to steer a 12-yard header beyond Eastwood after Neil Austin had hung a deep free-kick into the penalty area.

Connolly sought to restore parity when snapping on target on 35 minutes but Flinders was more than equal to his 14-yard effort.

It was end-to-end stuff and Simon Walton, afforded space 30 yards from goal, duly accepted the invitation to unleash a shot and was unlucky to see Eastwood shuffle his feet to save.

Pools were good value for their lead and entered the break a goal to the good.

Poole came within a whisker of doubling their advantage within a minute of the restart but his glancing header, from Jon Franks’ centre, skipped inches wide of Eastwood’s upright.

But Poole had his goal on 52 minutes, racing onto the loose ball after a slip from Johhny Ertl and dropping a cool finish beyond Eastwood.

The striker could have put the game out of sight when teed up by Franks just after the hour but he fired straight at Eastwood.

And Pompey took advantage of that let-off as Pools failed to deal with a high ball into the danger zone and Wallace pounced to dispatch a stinging volley between Flinders and his near post.

There were a few nervy moments for the visitors as they clung to their advantage, but Rutherford allayed those fears when he slotted home in injury-time after accepting a pass from Franks to run clean through on goal.