CONNOR Oliver has taken to League Two football like the proverbial duck to water.
As full debuts go, they don’t get much better than Oliver’s excellent 90 minutes at Plymouth Argyle on Saturday.
Whether he was sitting in front of his back four or striding forward in the opposition half, the 20-year-old had quality written all over him.
It meant Simon Walton was not missed in the centre by Pools – the former Plymouth midfielder missing out on a return to his former club.
“The gaffer hinted I might be playing but you can’t take anything for granted,” said the on-loan Sunderland product.
“I’d thought the week before, when there were two games over Easter, I might have got in but that wasn’t the case.
“But Simon getting sent off gave me the chance to come in and play.
“Centre-mid is my preferred position, but I feel comfortable anywhere across the midfield.
“This was a lot different to the Development League. This means a lot more. Of course you do try to win the Under-21 games and try to get as high up that table as you can.
“But obviously here in Leaue Two, you are playing in front of a lot more people and you want to send them home happy.”
Pools may not have won, but they certainly sent the supporters home pleased on their 760-mile round trip to Devon.
Oliver had Pools’ first shot of the day after playing a super one-two with Brad Walker in the 12th minute. It went just wide of Jake Cole’s right-hand post and it signalled the away side’s intentions.
Pools played some nice stuff, though Oliver was further away with 18th and 27th-minute attempts.
Plymouth were the more dangerous side in the first half, midfielder Remy Boco went wide in the opening seconds and the old stager Enoch Showunmi went for the spectacular finish but fired over.
But the Pilgrims did score and it was a beauty, Jason Banton jinking his way into the box before beating keeper Scott Flinders from 15 yards.
The equaliser was assisted by Argyle defender Durrell Berry, but it was a finish from Jack Barmby. Berry made a dreadful attempt at heading a Marlon Harewood flick on back towards Cole.
It went inches rather than yards and Barmby stepped in and lobbed the ball in from 14 yards.
Five days after cementing Pools’ Football League status with the winner against Morecambe, it was another touch of class.
Pools twice went close to a winner.
Barmby had just exited play when Oliver released Holden in the 80th minute with the pass of the match.
The full-back tore down the left channel and into the box but his left-foot shot, admittedly from an angle, went wide of the target.
Jack Compton then set off on a long 88th-minute run down the right before cutting in and hitting a shot from the edge of the box on his favoured left peg. Cole was beaten but the shot came back off his left post and Oliver’s follow-up was blocked.
Plymouth: Cole, Blanchard, Trotman, Nelson, Berry, Gurrieri, Young, Hourihane, Boco (Harvey 73), Showunmi (Reid 68), Banton (Alessandra 50). Subs not used: Blizzard, Thomas, Purrington, Dawson. Goals: Banton 31.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Duckworth, Collins, Harrison, Holden, Franks (Poole 60), Oliver, Walker, Monkhouse (Compton 35), Barmby (Richards 81), Harewood. Subs not used: Rafferty, Rowbotham, Jones, Hawkins. Goals: Barmby 67.
Att: 6,617. Ref: Gary Sutton (Lincolnshire).