Oxford Utd 1 (Connolly 77), Hartlepool 0

James Constable misses his shot in the first half against Hartlepool

James Constable misses his shot in the first half against Hartlepool

First published in Sport
Last updated
The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Sports Reporter covering Oxford United. Follow us on twitter: @oxfordmailoufc. Call me on 01865 425458

David Connolly's close range header gave Oxford United a priceless victory against Hartlepool United in what looked like being Mickey Lewis's final game in caretaker charge.

The former Republic of Ireland striker nodded in 13 minutes from time to give the U's a first win in seven games, stopping the rot to reignite their promotion hopes.

It was a result which had been in doubt for most of the evening as the hosts struggled to carve out clear chances.

But a red card for Simon Walton gave United belief and Connolly quickly notched his fourth goal for the club.

James Constable and Alfie Potter both had clear chances to seal the victory, but their profligacy did not prove costly.

In his 12th game in control, Lewis made six changes to the side which started the 3-0 defeat at Chesterfield last Saturday.

Youngsters Matt Bevans and Sam Long came into a makeshift back four, replacing the suspended Michael Raynes and Tom Newey, with David Hunt switching to left back.

The Oxford Times:

David Connolly celebrates with his teamates after scoring United’s late winner last night

Andy Whing made his first appearance since November, in for the injured Johnny Mullins, while Sean Rigg came in on the left flank.

Up front Constable partnered Connolly, as Danny Rose, Potter and Deane Smalley dropped to the bench.

The home fans, perhaps buoyed by the impending managerial news which emerged before kick-off, lifted the mood from the beginning.

United responded and they had the best of the opening 20 minutes.

The hosts did not look like a side struggling for confidence and quickly had Hartlepool on the back foot.

Ryan Williams got supporters off their seats with a smart turn and 50-yard run deep into opposition territory on 11 minutes.

He fed Rigg, whose trickery opened half a yard of space to cross low for Constable, who missed his kick 12 yards out.

The striker quickly made amends, intercepting a weak clearance to find Connolly inside the box.

It was an acute angle for the veteran, whose instant shot struck the woodwork and ricocheted off goalkeeper Scott Flinders and out for a corner.

From the set piece Whing headed wide, before punching the turf in frustration.

But United quickly lost their way and were forced into a change eight minutes before the break when Williams hobbled off, replaced by Potter.

Aside from a Luke James snap shot, the visitors had rarely threatened, but they came into the game in the closing minutes of the half.

One spell saw them force four successive corners, which saw Ryan Clarke tip over a header from Christian Burgess, and the goalkeeper also turned a Jack Barmby shot round the post on the stroke of half-time.

A weak header from Long put Clarke in trouble in the opening minute of the second half. It almost gifted a goal to James, but the young defender recovered in time to clear.

United swiftly went up the other end and had a strong call for a penalty when Rigg was sent sprawling.

But to the astonishment of the home players, and many of their fans, referee Andy Davies shook his head and waved play on.

The Oxford Times:

Hartlepool United’s Simon Walton (centre) is shown the red card by Hampshire referee Andy Davies

A set piece looked United's best hope of finding a breakthrough as they struggled for creativity in open play.

Ruffels stung Flinders' fingers with a free-kick from long range and as the minutes ticked by it began to look like a frustrating night.

But the game changed 16 minutes from time when Walton was dismissed for picking up two bookings, both for late tackles on Rigg.

The winger won another free-kick a minute later on the left flank.

Hunt whipped in the delivery and found Connolly, who headed into the corner of the net.

There was relief all round and the experienced striker quickly sent Constable through one-on-one to kill the game, but Flinders stood up and blocked smartly.

Potter had a similar opening in the 90th minute, again from a Connolly pass, which the winger blazed over.

It was very nearly costly for the hosts, as James had two sights of goal in stoppage time which he fired wide to let United off the hook as Lewis signed off on a high.

Oxford Utd (4-4-2): Clarke, Bevans, Long, Wright, Hunt, Williams, Whing, Ruffels, Rigg, Constable, Connolly.
Subs used: Potter (Williams 37), Smalley (Constable 90).
Unused subs: Crocombe, Rose, Davies, O'Dowda, Wroe.
Booked: None

Hartlepool Utd (4-4-2): Flinders, Richards, Collins, Burgess, Holden (Poole 86), Walker, Walton, Barmby (Franks 83), Compton (Sweeney 78), James, Harewood.
Unused subs: Rafferty, Rowbotham, Duckworth, Hawkins.
Booked: Richards, Walton
Sent off: Walton

Referee: Andy Davies (Hampshire).
Attendance: 4,954 (185 visitors).

Comments (5)

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10:11pm Fri 21 Mar 14

marston old boy says...

Great result tonight hopefully we can kick on now. New manager for Mondays game also..... Just like to take this chance to thank Mickey Lewis for holding the fort. He obviously didn't ask for the position he was put in but did his best to steer the ship through choppy water results didn't go his way and he will be the first to say that but it does prove if you cut MAD DOG he would bleed yellow and blue hope you get a good role under the new start you deserve it. If not give us a shout I know you know b run ;-)
Great result tonight hopefully we can kick on now. New manager for Mondays game also..... Just like to take this chance to thank Mickey Lewis for holding the fort. He obviously didn't ask for the position he was put in but did his best to steer the ship through choppy water results didn't go his way and he will be the first to say that but it does prove if you cut MAD DOG he would bleed yellow and blue hope you get a good role under the new start you deserve it. If not give us a shout I know you know b run ;-) marston old boy
  • Score: 22

11:06pm Fri 21 Mar 14

35 year fan says...

priceless result, well done IL for pulling your finger out change of mood tonight as a result. If the new manager gives them a lift now for three or four games who knows. COYY
priceless result, well done IL for pulling your finger out change of mood tonight as a result. If the new manager gives them a lift now for three or four games who knows. COYY 35 year fan
  • Score: 11

11:35pm Fri 21 Mar 14

Bumble08 says...

So glad we managed to get three points in Mikey's final game in charge, as said all along not his fault his been interusted for so long. Would like to echo aboves comments and hope that they find him a role somewhere at the club. Thought Whing had a great game tonight in the middle for us, good to have him back, Connelly worked his socks off up front although his touch let him down on occasions but for me most pleasing of all tonight was young long at the back, looked assured a dealt with most things all night. 3 points and a few pints, good start to the weekend. Same agian Monday please!!
So glad we managed to get three points in Mikey's final game in charge, as said all along not his fault his been interusted for so long. Would like to echo aboves comments and hope that they find him a role somewhere at the club. Thought Whing had a great game tonight in the middle for us, good to have him back, Connelly worked his socks off up front although his touch let him down on occasions but for me most pleasing of all tonight was young long at the back, looked assured a dealt with most things all night. 3 points and a few pints, good start to the weekend. Same agian Monday please!! Bumble08
  • Score: 16

8:50am Sat 22 Mar 14

BigAlBiker says...

I thought the young players were fantastic, Sam Long looked like he had been playing first team football for ages, as for Whingy he was awesome.

Well done to everyone for a great win, and to top it off we get a new man in, let's hope he kicks them I to life and we move back jo the table.

A good evening all round.
I thought the young players were fantastic, Sam Long looked like he had been playing first team football for ages, as for Whingy he was awesome. Well done to everyone for a great win, and to top it off we get a new man in, let's hope he kicks them I to life and we move back jo the table. A good evening all round. BigAlBiker
  • Score: 6

9:26am Sat 22 Mar 14

Joe1 says...

Phewww, that was a hard earned win, the last few minutes were nail biting we so nearly let it slip again. We didn't that was good. Let's get on & move upwards from here.
Phewww, that was a hard earned win, the last few minutes were nail biting we so nearly let it slip again. We didn't that was good. Let's get on & move upwards from here. Joe1
  • Score: 7

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