Yeovil Town's hopes of climbing back into the top half of the League One table again were dashed as they went down to their second defeat in a week. An excellent performance from former Glovers loan keeper Scott Flinders, and a side that gradually ran out of ideas, saw Hartlepool United steal the points as Ryan Noble netted midway through the second half. Before the goal, Yeovil had looked by far the more likely side to score, but by the end, the longer the game wore on, the less likely it seemed that they would find the net, meaning that they slipped down to 16th in the League One table by the end of the match.
Manager Gary Johnson made four changes to the team that had lost 3-0 in midweek at Charlton Athletic. Gavin Williams had a calf injury whilst Richard Hinds was out with a hamstring problem meaning that they had to be replaced by Bondz N'Gala and Lawson D'Ath. Meanwhile Dean Parrett's impending return to Tottenham Hotspur meant that he was replaced by Blackburn Rovers left-sided player Josh Morris who was making his debut. The final change saw the Glovers switch back to a 4-4-2 with Jonathan Obika coming in, whilst Jonathan Franks got a chance to rest his legs in the stand. Curiously, the substitutes bench ran with only four names on it with not even the likes of Anthony Edgar included on the teamsheet, perhaps giving an idea of where the future lies with certain players.
The first half was very much a battle of wills. Yeovil doing everything they could do to attack, whilst Hartlepool were doing everything they could to slow the game down and prevent the game from flowing. The pattern of the game was set by Andy Williams breaking through in the first minute, only to put over the bar. Then Scott Flinders saved from Lawson D'Ath after Jonathan Obika put the Reading man through on goal.
Hartlepool were having next to no chances all half - the only half chances that came there way were induced by some nervous looking goalkeeping from Sam Walker, with a dropped cross from Andy Monkhouse landing at the feet of Antony Sweeney who was perhaps surprised at the opportunity. Somehow the Glovers got away with it. The game overall suffered a loss of rhythm at times, largely thanks to some of the antics of Hartlepool striker Ryan Noble, who chose to hit the deck and writhe around every time any remotely physical challenge that came his way. The injury to his teammate Peter Hartley though was a real one, with the centre-back Peter Hartley getting stretchered off after a five minute break.
As the half closed out, Jonathan Obika and Lawson D'Ath combined again, but D'Ath's shot was wild after a weaving Obika run. Then Andy Williams broke clear after a long goal kick by Sam Walker put him away. Right at the end of the extended half though, Hartlepool finally got a clean shot in on goal as Ritchie Humphreys broke clear and fired from distance, but it went just wide of the post - it would have been fairly criminal if the visitors had been able to repeat the 1-0 half time lead that Walsall had grabbed a week ago. Chances for Obika and Jonathan Grounds closed out the half, and the only disappointment was that the Glovers had not shown enough cutting edge in the final third.
The second half opened in a somewhat flat manner, with Jonathan Grounds heading over representing one of very few chances out there. Replacement referee Phil Gibbs had an odd afternoon - normally fans like officials who don't want to take over games, but when Neil Austin flattened Lawson D'Ath the match official somehow didn't see that as a booking - the game was completed without a single booking, which was somewhat at odds to some of the fouls out there, and in particular five more minutes of injury time in the second period, largely down to Hartlepool's attempts to run down the clock.
That slowing down of the game was bound to double when the away side sneaked the lead with their first - and only - shot on target of the whole game. A ball into the box looped off a head in a crowded box, and with the Glovers defence and goalkeeper completely static, Sunderland striker Ryan Noble ended a goal drought for Hartlepool that had lasted nearly 500 minutes, by stabbing home from close range. 0-1 down and no doubt that it was against the run of play.
That should have been the moment that Yeovil needed to turn the screw on their ultra-defensive opponents, but it didn't really happen. Debutant Josh Morris was putting in some great crosses and one that he curled in should have been headed home by Jon Obika, but the striker fluffed his lines and missed the ball into the box. On came Michael Woods for sponsors Man of the Match Lawson D'Ath in an attempt to liven up proceedings, but that didn't have much of an effect upon the game - Yeovil had run out of ideas and the game finished in a frustrating, flat and inert manner, with not even attempts to push Paul Huntington and Bondz N'Gala up front in the closing stages changing the way that Yeovil pressed for the equaliser, but without having the invention to be able to fashion it. In the end it was a little too comfortable for Hartlepool to hang on for the win.
Link: 2011-12 Latest League One Table.
Final Score: Yeovil Town 0 Hartlepool United 1.
Scorers: Ryan Noble (65 mins, 0-1).
Yeovil Town: (4-4-2)
1. Sam Walker
2. Luke Ayling 5. Paul Huntington 4. Bondz N'Gala 17. Jonathan Grounds
14. Lawson D'Ath 8. Ed Upson 6. Dominic Blizzard 15. Josh Morris
7. Andy Williams 29. Jonathan Obika
24. Gareth Stewart (GK) 12. Michael Woods (74 mins for Dominic Blizzard) 18. Kieran Agard (82 mins for Lawson D'Ath) 19. Curtis Haynes-Brown
Hartlepool United: (4-5-1)
1. Scott Flinders
2. Neil Austin 29. Peter Hartley 5. Sam Collins 6. Evan Horwood
15. Antony Sweeney
18. Jack Baldwin 4. Gary Liddle 20. Paul Murray 11. Andy Monkhouse
35. Ryan Noble
21. Andy Rafferty (GK) 3. Ritchie Humphreys (36 mins for Peter Hartley) 7. James Brown 10. Adam Boyd (90 mins for Ryan Noble) 16. Steven Haslam
Yeovil Bookings: None.
Hartlepool Bookings: None.
Referee: Phil Gibbs (West Midlands). Assistants: Brett Huxtable (Devon) and Christopher Powell (Dorset). Fourth Official: Richard Corp (Somerset).
Attendance: 4,033 (including 98 Hartlepool United supporters).
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