Fleet claimed their second ex-Football League scalp in succession at the Kuflink Stadium as a strong team performance sent in-form Hartlepool packing to the tune of 3-0, their highest defeat of the season. It was no more than the home side deserved as they bounced back from defeat at Woking in some style against a team that had lost only one league game in their last nine.
Daryl McMahon made only one change to his starting line-up, with Sean Shields coming in for Anthony Cook, while Hartlepool top scorer Jonathan Franks was forced to sit out a second game through injury.
It was Hartlepool who came alive the quicker of the two teams in a fairly sedate opening period and Devante Rodney down the right worked the first half chance as the visitors’ powerful front men launched a couple of crosses with Fleet looking a little stretched. But the red shirts soon settled and Myles Weston began to probe the Hartlepool back line from his position wide on the right. On 11 minutes his mazy run into the box showed promise but his cross was scooped straight into the goalkeepers’ arms and three minutes later he went higher with his delivery, where Shields tried to meet it at the far post but found Liam Donnelly too strong in the air.
Luke Coulson played several good touches and runs through the middle and was almost away from the Hartlepool defence on one occasion, with Danny Kedwell up alongside him but the pass to the skipper wasn’t accurate.
Then on 22 minutes, it was Weston who created and claimed the opening goal. From another Coulson pass, he turned and whipped a good shot goalwards that took a deflection as it travelled just over the crossbar. From Weston’s own short corner, the ball eventually found its way back to him and his floated delivery evaded teammates and Pools defenders alike, which may have wrong-footed the goalkeeper, and in it went to give Fleet the lead.
Hartlepool didn’t threaten the Fleet goal unduly but Kenny Clark got in the way of Jake Cassidy as he eyed up a chance in the box with a superb block. Organised and committed, the Fleet defence didn’t budge and Jack Connors kept his side on the offensive by getting forward as often as he could, which allowed Shields free rein further upfield. Indeed Shields had the next good chance as he twisted past a defender, cut inside and sent a shot just past the far post with the outside of his boot.
The visitors emerged in the second half with more purpose and for 10 minutes they looked quicker to the ball but failed to really test Nathan Ashmore. Louis Laing was close with a header just over the bar, but Ashmore was right underneath it and looked to have it covered, while the Fleet keeper was down well to Devante Rodney’s effort after a well-worked move by the visitors.
Cassidy was fortunate to escape a booking when he flew in on Chris Bush, particularly as two Fleet players had already seen yellow, but by the hour mark the Fleet were beginning to re-establish themselves on the game. Shields was most unfortunate not to extend the lead with some excellent solo play on 64 minutes, when he once again cut inside his marker and his low shot skipped off the turf and took a deflection just past goalkeeper Scott Loach’s post.
Two minutes later, however, and Shields supplied the pass for the second goal. The move began with quick thinking in the middle between Coulson and substitute Jack Powell before play was spread left to Shields. His adventurous run took him past a defender to get a high cross to the back post where Kedwell was lurking only a few yards out and he got in between Laing and Scott Harrison to force the ball into the top corner.
Hartlepool struggled to mount much of a response with Nicky Deverdics break deserving more than Tomi Adeloye firing into the wall behind the goal and it only further encouraged the Fleet. On 82 minutes another well-crafted goal put the result beyond doubt. Weston exchanged passes with Sam Magri on the right flank and Magri drove into the box before checking his run, turning inside and picking out Coulson on the edge of the box. From there, it was a masterclass in clinical finishing as Coulson found a spot to the right of Loach to bury the ball for 3-0.
With a hefty six minutes of time added on, Hartlepool’s afternoon was summed up when Rhys Oates ballooned a shot high over the scoreboard and Fleet took the points and a clean sheet to leapfrog their opponents into 12th position.
EUFC: Ashmore, Magri, Connors, Clark, Bush, Rance (Powell 67), Drury,, Weston, Shields, Coulson (Cook 90), Kedwell (McLean 90).
Subs not used: McCoy, Miles.
HUFC: Loach, Donnelly, Laing, Harrison, Deverdics, Featherstone (Munns 65), Woods, Newton, Rodney (Adeloye 53), Cassidy, Oates.
Subs not used: Ledger, Hawkins, George.