Relief for Paul Murray as Hartlepool United beat East Thurrock to reach second round of FA Cup

ON THE ATTACK: Dan Jones in action against East Thurrock United. Picture by FRANK REID
ON THE ATTACK: Dan Jones in action against East Thurrock United. Picture by FRANK REID
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RELIEVED Paul Murray was delighted to see his Hartlepool United side negotiate a “difficult” cup tie and make it into tonight’s second round draw.

Non-league East Thurrock United may be three leagues below Sky Bet League Two side Pools but they made Murray’s men push hard for the win.

John Coventry’s side almost took a 10th-minute lead, Mitchell Gilbey’s strike from the edge of the area was touched onto the post by a diving Scott Flinders.

It was a let-off for Pools who eventually knocked the Ryman Premier League outfit out of the competition thanks to a brace from Jonathan Franks.

Murray was relieved to avoid a potential banana skin tie and make it safely into the second round draw.

“It was always going to be a difficult tie,” said Murray.

“Thurrock would have looked at it from the point of view that we are struggling at the bottom of League Two and that they can look to cause an upset.

“We grew into the game and created some really good opportunities but didn’t take them.

“Eventually we got the goal and we went from there and it was a case of getting the job done.”

Pools successfully managed to nullify the threat of Rocks hot-shot Sam Higgins, who had been scoring goals for fun this term including 12 since the end of August.

Veteran defender Sam Collins and Neil Austin, back at centre-half in place of Sunderland defender Scott Harrison who wasn’t allowed to play by the Cats, both impressed.

“Higgins had scored a lot of goals for them and we knew he was a threat,” said Murray.

“Reliability-wise I know what I get from Sam and Neil at the moment.

“The game could have been slightly different if their shot that Scott tipped onto the post had gone in but I have some experienced, reliable bodies at the back.

“I know Sam is 37 and can’t continue forever but at this moment in time I am choosing to play him for his reliability.

“I need that level of consistency, which is what I get from them.

“The players I am looking to bring in will also give me that.”

The ex-Pools midfielder also had praise for former teammate Franks, who scored twice but should have been walking away with at least a hat-trick.

He added: “I have been asking that of Franksy, to cut inside and get his shots off and get his belief back.

“When I was here all those years ago I thought he was a one that could do a job for the team.

“He has been up and down and we need to get some consistency from him but he showed on Saturday, regardless of the opposition, that he can score - although he probably should have had five.

“To get a clean sheet and win the game makes me very happy and the main thing is we’re in the hat and we’ll be watching it tonight.”

And who would Murray like next? “Anyone at home would be good,” he said. “Someone like Bristol City would be very nice at home.”

l THE draw for the second round of the FA Cup takes place live on BBC Two tonight (Monday, November 10) at 7pm.

– RICHARD MENNEAR