Hartlepool United 3 Harrogate Town 2: Sulphurites collapse from position of control
A spectacular collapse in the space of seven second-half minutes saw Harrogate Town lose a game they were in compete control of at Hartlepool United.
Leading by two goals at the interval, Simon Weaver's men conceded three times in quick succession shortly after the resumption and failed to recover, condemning them to a second defeat in the space of a week.
Roared on by a fierce home crowd, Pools were fast out of the blocks, while, by contrast, their visitors looked sluggish and off the pace during the opening exchanges of Saturday's match.
And it was all too easy for Mark Cullen to engineer himself a fourth-minute sight of goal on the right-hand edge of the Harrogate box, though the striker could only drag his finish across the face of goal and wide.
Mark Oxley then had to spring to his right to push away a Luke Hendrie header from Gavan Holohan’s left-wing centre.
It appeared that United had registered the goal which their fast start arguably deserved on 12 minutes, though they were denied by the linesman’s flag.
A corner taken short from the left was worked into the path of Luke Molyneux, who curled a low effort towards the far-post where an offside Neill Byrne applied a finishing touch.
Having eventually started to get to grips with proceedings, Town then had the ball in the back of Hartlepool’s net courtesy of Jack Diamond’s sweet 25th-minute strike, though again the flag went up, despite the on-loan Sunderland winger appearing to be in line with Pools' last man.
Three minutes later, the Wetherby Road outfit did however bag one that would count.
Lewis Page crossed from the left, where Luke Armstrong’s mistimed diving header helped the ball into the path of Jack Muldoon, who unselfishly laid it off for George Thomson to crash a close-range finish through Jonathan Mitchell and into the roof of the goal.
Things got even better for the visitors in the 35th minute when Josh Falkingham won a free-kick wide on the right.
Thomson took it quickly and released Ryan Fallowfield, who whipped in a gorgeous low cross which Byrne slid to meet and powered past his own goalkeeper.
Town could and probably should have had a third soon afterwards, the unmarked Diamond meeting Armstrong’s cross from the right at the near post but choosing to take a touch and eventually seeing his shot well saved by the foot of Mitchell.
It did however seem as if Harrogate had taken a 3-0 lead a minute into the second period when Thomson whipped in a corner from the left which beat Mitchell at his near post, however referee James Oldham opted to disallow the goal and award the hosts a free-kick.
That decision would prove pivotal as Pools got themselves back in the contest on 52 minutes, substitute Reagan Ogle swinging over a right-wing cross which David Ferguson met first-time at the back post and fired across Oxley.
With the home faithful suddenly alive again, United were level less than 60 seconds later.
Another cross was delivered from the right and this time Cullen beat Will Smith to the ball and glanced a header over Oxley and inside the post.
Within six minutes, the turnaround was complete. Matty Daly breezed inside off the right and past Lloyd Kerry before bending an excellent long-range shot past Oxley's despairing dive.
A half-chance for Town to respond arrived soon afterwards when Armstong met a right-wing cross just eight yards out, but cleared the cross-bar with his header.
And that was about as good as it got for Harrogate as the final half-an-hour passed by without them ever really looking like being able to get themselves back into the game.
Defeat sees the Sulphurites drop down from second place in the League Two standings to fifth position.