Harrogate Town 3 Hartlepool United 2: Stunning late comeback seals FA Trophy progress

A stunning late comeback saw Harrogate Town recover from 2-0 down to beat Hartlepool United in dramatic fashion at the CNG Stadium.

Saturday, 14th December 2019, 5:09 pm
Updated Sunday, 15th December 2019, 9:07 am
Action from Harrogate Town's FA Trophy clash with Hartlepool United at the CNG Stadium. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Seemingly heading out of the FA Trophy at the first-round stage following a below-par first-half showing, Simon Weaver's team bagged three late goals to complete a remarkable turnaround.

Visiting Hartlepool began much the better of the sides and were rewarded with just 10 minutes on the clock, Tyler Hamilton finishing off Mark Kitching's cross at the far post to break the deadlock.

Nicke Kabamba was then narrowly wide before Town eventually began to show and George Thomson's strike from distance forced visiting stopper Dimi Konstantopoulos into action.

Despite launching too many hopeful punts forward from defence, the hosts began to look the more likely as the half wore on.

They had a great chance to level when Jon Stead was afforded a clear sight of goal in the 36th minute, but dragged his strike across goal and just past Konstantopoulos' right-hand post.

Moments later, Harrogate were handed an even better opportunity after Brendan Kiernan beat Fraser Kerr to the ball inside the Pools box and was upended by the big centre-half.

Stead took responsibilty for the resulting spot-kick, only to see his poor attempt from 12 yards comfortably kept out by Konstantopoulos.

Things then got worse for Town in first-half stoppage-time when they were caught on the counter-attack from their own corner.

The visitors broke away at pace and Josh Hawkes slid in Ryan Donaldson, whose finish just about made it over the goal-line despite the best efforts of the horribly-exposed Joe Cracknell.

Unsurprisingly dissatisfied, boss Weaver made a double-change at the break, bringing on Scott Brown and Jack Emmett for Ryan Fallowfield and Jack Diamond.

The re-shuffle led to an initial improvement in the hosts' play, mainly due to the fact that they passed the ball to feet with more regularity.

Alex Bradley worked himself an opening on the edge of the away box and forced a save out of Konstantpoulos, but despite several promising raids down the right, Town failed to really open up the away defence.

Then, with 77 miunutes on the clock, and somewhat out of the blue, Harrogate got themselves back in the game.

Continuing the recent trend of opposition players scoring own goals at the CNG Stadium, Pools defender Peter Kioso slid in and diverted Mitch Hancox's cross from the left into his own net, halving the deficit.

If the home supporters were anticipating that moment being the catalyst for a late onslaught on the United goal, then they will likely have been disappointed by the 10 minutes that followed.

Yet, when former Middlesbrough gloveman Konstantopoulos flapped at the ball and lost out to Connor Hall at a corner, the Town centre-half showed good awareness to swivel and fire into the unguarded net.

The closing moments saw Weaver's men pushing hard for a winner, one which arrived in the third minute of stoppage time.

With two Harrogate players bearing down on him, Pools' last man Kerr desperately booted a bouncing ball high up into the air and back towards his own goal.

And, when Konstantopoulos' aerial shortcomings were exposed once again as he fumbled under pressure from Jack Emmett, Kiernan was left with the simplest of finishes inside the six-yard box, sealing the most remarkable of comebacks.