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Match Report: Hartlepool United 1-0 Sunderland - Need For A Finisher Highlighted

Steve Howard had Titus Bramble beaten at every opportunity as Hartlepool defeated Sunderland 1-0.
Steve Howard had Titus Bramble beaten at every opportunity as Hartlepool defeated Sunderland 1-0.

Sunderland slumped to a second defeat in three games of the preseason as down at Victoria Park, Hartlepool took the spoils thanks to new signing Steve Howard's early goal.

Not that we need to read too much into the results of preseason games, but it does come as a disappointment still. Many first team regulars were missing, but the team put out should have been strong enough to put away a lower division side.

But we didn't, and there's not much we can do about it now other than give you our match report and player ratings, with Quick Kicks and further thoughts on the game to come later on today...

Welcomed on to the pitch by a magnificent away following, Martin O'Neill comprised his side largely of players who were available to him in South Korea, with the additions of Matt Kilgallon back from injury, plus Kieren Westwood who decided to cut short his preseason break. Killa starting alongside Titus Bramble, Westwood making the bench.

The first real action of the night was the only goal of the game, scored by recent Hartlepool signing and unashamed Newcastle fan, Steve Howard. If that wasn't bad enough, it was a terrible goal to concede too.

Pouncing on a mistake by Titus Bramble, Howard fired at goal. With Sunderland able to block the first effort, but not the second as 'Pools took the lead. For a man who earlier this week said he was 'looking to impress' and handed a great opportunity with Michael Turner out of the picture, Titus certainly doesn't seem to stake a claim for being kept around in the near future.

After 20 minutes the lead was nearly doubled by Howard as he was teed up by Evan Horwood, danced through the legs of Bramble again, but this time lashed wide from the edge of the area.

The exciting Luke James had a strike blocked by Mignolet too as 'Pools tried to turn the screw on Sunderland and grab a second goal.

Without doubt the home side were certainly on top of things for the majority of the first half, but Sunderland did come back into things as the whistle approached - some great play from Jack Colback saw him nutmeg his marker, skip down the line and fire in a pinpoint cross, which Ryan Noble could only head wide.

Fraizer Campbell was the next to find the byline, but when he managed to turn the ball back for David Meyler, the Irishman's shot was a tame one, and easily held by Scott Flinders.

One change at the half with Westwood replacing Simon Mignolet, and overall the second half was a much better one for Sunderland, and they came out immediately on the attack.

Connor Wickham bamboozled his marker before firing down the throat of Flinders, with Campbell moments later firing a fizzing drive low and narrowly wide.

Kieran Richardson, now in an advanced role with Colback at left-back, was next to go close. Lee Cattermole slid a lovely ball to the former Manchester United utility man, only to see the ball go inches wide of the far post with Flinders beaten all ends up.

Continued pressure came, as did a raft of substitutions but still no break-through as Sunderland found Flinders in inspired form. Wickham once again drove straight at the former England Youth 'keeper, Richardson worked him into a good stop, but our best moment was yet to come.

Kilgallon played in Colback down the left hand side and the cross cleared for a corner. Taken by Colback and met by a stooping Fraizer Campbell, Flinders incredibly managed to get down low and turn the ball over the cross bar.

It simply wasn't to be our night as a combination of inspired goalkeeping, our own inability to create and individual errors saw Hartlepool come away with a famous victory.

Team (Ratings in brackets)

Starting XI: Mignolet (5), Gardner (4), Kilgallon (4), Bramble (3), Richardson (5), Colback (6), Cattermole (6), Meyler (5), Campbell (4), Wickham (4), Noble (4)

Subs Used: Laing (5), Reed (5), Knott (5), Westwood (5)

Man Of The Match: Jack Colback - Not the greatest of games, but nobody could especially be proud of their performance at Victoria Park. Colback kept things ticking over nicely and was the source of anything good we did in the final third, it was just unfortunate that nobody could convert the good work Colback did.

Keep your eyes on Roker Report today for new feature "Quick Kicks" in which we'll have more reaction from Hartlepool now we've had a bit more time to digest it, and see how it effects the club moving forward.

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