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Match Report: Hartlepool 0-1 Sheffield United (Hartlepool Fan's Perspective)

Saturday 31st March 2012
Antony Sweeney titled his head back, looking with a disbelieving facial expression towards the sky.

His expression told the story of the preceding 95 minutes.

It was not the ensuing response him and his team mates deserved to be sporting after an industrious, hard-working and creative game against a Sheffield United who didn't do their second-place position in the league any real credit.

Straight from the first blow of the whistle Hartlepool were in complete control, only twice in the first half were they forced onto the back foot. But even when windows of opportunities did open for the Blades, the tremendous Paul Murray slammed them shut within a few passes, ably supported by Gary Liddle.

It was supposed to be the game that the visitors ripped apart the hosts. The bookmakers priced the visitor's as 6/5 favourites to win and with Ched Evans in scintillating form, few neutral onlookers would have dismissed the "experts'" predictions.

Evans, though, did what he does best. Score, that is. He didn't trouble the defenders with his hold-up play, runs or jinxing footwork. Sam Collins and Peter Hartley - later to be dismissed for a second yellow card - had all those aforementioned attributes kept under control.

His single goal proved enough to separate the sides in what was a game of football - watched on the sidelines by Hartlepool's most successful ever managers (Neale Cooper, Pools and Danny Wilson, Blades) - played at a high tempo immediately.

Evan Horwood was in excellent form down the left, partnering with Andy Monkhouse well and getting more than his fair share of crosses into the box. Ryan Noble and Monkhouse both registered blocked efforts but Sheff United then noted the game's first real chance when Richard Cresswell dragged a shot just wide of the goal from an acute angle.

Neil Austin twice put Collins under needless pressure through weak and mis-timed passes, though the skipper did enough to clear.

There were, contrary to the action, very few chances. Noble, who wasn't as effective up front today, shook off his man and curled a dipping shot at goal but Steve Simonsen palmed away in theatrical fashion. The cameras, for sure, were delighted with that save.

Hartley powered a good header at goal before Noble again raced away to shoot off target. Scott Flinders cushioned a shot from an angle, and he was called to action again to collect possession from Cresswell.

Sub James Brown connected to another Horwood cross with his first touch.  Whereas at the other end, referee Carl Boyeson, who let's to be honest was incredibly inconsistent throughout and on no more than two occasions publicly turned a blind eye to the linesman's flag, waved away O'Halloran's penalty claims after he slipped under the foot of Sam Collins.

As dubious as they come, though, Boyeson this time acknowledged his assistant's flag, pointing to spot despite being within 10 yards of the incident himself. Neale Cooper was outraged, as were the home support, and Evans duly dispatched.

Adam Boyd laced a cracking effort at goal just after coming on as Pools searched for a deserved equaliser. He was then hauled to the turf under Boyeson's nose, but the ref dismissed the claims before handing a free kick against Pools for an identical foul just 30 seconds later.

Hartley successfully beat his man in the corner, but Boyeson (have a guess what) didn't see that and awarded a set piece. Hartley threw the ball down in sheer, acceptable frustration, seeing a a secondyellow for dissent.

And then, with the referee's clock indicating little more than 60 seconds' of play left, Sweeney volleyed at goal from ten yards out but his spinning, promising shot evaded the framework. His hands went into his has hands - he had spurned Pools' best chance to end the injust.
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