THEY may lack the talent of Bournemouth’s League One artists, but Hartlepool United showed they are not short of grit.
On icy evenings like yesterday, it is exactly what is needed.
The cause bottom-of-the-table Hartlepool are fighting is so lost even the search parties must have gone home, but they still gave the promotion-chasing Cherries a real scare.
Bournemouth put on a good exhibition of football for the handful of hardy (maybe foolhardy) souls – 68 of them – who made the long trek from the south coast but, as is sometimes the case with sides of that nature, they were often too focused on weaving pretty patterns and not enough on finding the net.
It meant they had to endure a nervous second half before winning.
Despite Bournemouth’s dominance it took them 28 minutes to score, a good Eunan O’Kane cross picking out Josh McQuoid, who headed in.
Hartlepool should have been ahead by then.
Substitute Jack Baldwin – thrust into the action when Antony Sweeney turned his ankle in the second minute – played a lovely ball through for Jonathan Franks, who impressed in a central midfield role.
Shwan Jalal stuck his right hand out to save.
They should have had an equaliser too, Ritchie Humphreys holding his head in his hands after he directed a wonderful Evan Horwood ball wide.
John Hughes (pictured right) would like his team to get closer to the football the Cherries produced.
However, it is not easy when you are rock bottom of League One.
When Horwood lost the ball trying to dribble past McQuoid too close to his goal, the grumbles rumbled around.
Playing so much football in midfield, Bournemouth sometimes forgot to get bodies on the end of their good crosses.
When Lewis Grabban had the ball returned to him in space on the left by Mark Pugh, there was no one to get on the end of the centre-forward’s delivery.
Likewise when Hartlepool gave the ball away trying to counter-attack and O’Kane centred.
Despite the boos which greeted half-time, home goalkeeper Scott Flinders had little to do.
Bournemouth restarted with a beautiful move to play in right-back Simon Francis, but Sam Collins typified Hartlepool’s display by throwing himself in the way. Their pluck earned a big slice of luck, Horwood overhitting his free-kick three minutes later.
Jalal misjudged and, caught under it, could only palm onto the crossbar. Baldwin thundered in, putting himself and the ball into the net and requiring lengthy treatment.
The visitors kept their cool and their passing. When Grabban brilliantly played O’Kane in, Collins could not hold back from a lunging foul.
Grabban coolly converted the penalty to restore his side’s lead on 60 minutes,
Both goalkeepers made saves in the last 15 minutes, though Flinders’ was more for the cameras and Steve Howard tweaked his hamstring with Hartlepool’s riposte.
Franks was a slightly cleaner touch away from giving Charlie Wyke’s ball a van Persiesque flick into the net as the home fans got encouragement and th e visitors the jitters.
The 2-1 result was the right one, but Hartlepool can take heart from how awkward they made it.
HARTLEPOOL: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Sweeney (Baldwin 5), Walton (Poole 67), Humphreys, Franks, Howard (Monkhouse 80), Wyke. Subs (not used): McHugh, Luscombe, Holden, James. Goal: Baldwin 51.
BOURNEMOUTH: Jalal, Francis, Elphick, Seaborne, Daniels (Fogden 90), McQuoid, Arter, O’Kane, Pugh, Grabban (Tubbs 86), Hughes. Subs (not used): Allsop, Partington, McDermott, Fletcher, Pitman. Booked: Hughes.
Goals: McQuoid 28, Grabban 63 pen.
Referee: Mick Russell (Hertfordshire) Att: 2,502