Not a fun day out at the coast as Stevenage fall to two first-half goals at Hartlepool
PUBLISHED: 17:00 21 January 2017 | UPDATED: 17:00 21 January 2017
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One of the sponsorship boards at Victoria Park read 'Charles Dickens' and for new Hartlepool United boss Dave Jones this 2-0 victory will give him Great Expectations. For Stevenage though the Northern Gas and Power Stadium was more of a Bleak House.
Two goals in the last three minutes of the first half did the damage.
The first came after Jamie Jones had got a foot to a deflected initial effort but the rebound fell invitingly to Nicky Featherstone who slammed the rebound into the roof of the net.
Jones had saved a penalty moments before that goal and he got a hand to Brad Walker’s shot in stoppage time, but it was not enough to prevent the hosts doubling their lead.
The lead itself was deserved. No doubt buoyed by the presence of new boss, Pools started brightly, playing some neat football.
That said Jones only had two shots to save, both low and both straight at him.
Stevenage struggled to get much going in an attacking sense; a couple of mazy runs from Tom Pett which came to nothing and a header from Luke Wilkinson going over was about your lot.
Wilkinson was the villain of the piece for the penalty. His hand was up and the ball did hit it but header came from a foot away if that.
Embarrassingly for the home PA team, the goal music was played prior to the penalty being taken.
But their blushes were spared with those two quick goals.
That break allowed manager Darren Sarll a chance to tinker with his defence.
He had started with Wilkinson in the centre alongside Ronnie Henry, with Charlie Lee at right-back.
But Boro started the second 45 minutes with Fraser Franks in the middle, Lee on the left and Henry on the right.
The change seemed to help boost confidence as Stevenage began much brighter.
Henry Cowans rattled the woodwork from the right before Pett lifted one over.
Wilkinson, who was arguably the visitors’ best player, then connected well to a deep cross but his header went agonisingly wide.
But soon Hartlepool had regained the upper hand and there were even ole’s being heard from the home faithful.
Sarll changed things up from the bench, including handing a debut to new loan signing from Luton Town, Josh McQuoid, and Spurs man Ryan Loft.
And the Spurs man should have scored within a minute of arriving.
Matt Godden’s header from a McQuoid cross again rattled the woodwork and fell perfectly, if a little quickly, at the feet of Loft who couldn’t get a good connection.
That was as near as Stevenage came to mounting a surprise comeback and it means they have now won just one in the last six games.
Boro: Jones, Franks, Wilkinson, Schumacher, Pett, Kennedy (Loft 82), Gorman (Tonge 72), Lee, Cowans (McQuoid 62), Godden, Henry
Subs (not used): Day, McAnuff, Johnson, Liburd
Hartlepool: Bartlett, Donnelly, Bates, Harrison, Kavanagh, Featherstone, Woods, Walker (Laurent 82), Hawkins, Oates (Amond 73), Alessandra (Thomas 85)
Subs (not used): Catterick, Martin, Richardson, Rodney
Goals: Featherstone 42, Walker 45+1
HT: Hartlepool United 2 Stevenage 0
Attendance: 3,383c (including 78 from Stevenage)