IT’S not every day a football manager is thankful to the officials, but Hartlepool United’s Craig Harrison certainly was last night.

Harrison saw his side cut it mighty fine. In fact it took Pools until almost the last touch of the five minutes of injury-time played to clinch another three points, lifting Pools to within three points of a play-off spot.

Influential midfielder Michael Woods powered a close-range header from Nicky Deverdics’ cross high into the roof of the net at the Town End of Victoria Park to finally break the deadlock against a stubborn Barrow.

That is one defeat in eight for Hartlepool, including five wins during that run, even if they struggled to create clear cut chances against a Barrow team that had the best of the chances to win it.

The Northern Echo:

Hartlepool could be thankful to referee Joe Hull for playing the appropriate added time at the end, given how his assistant Matthew Sowerby had to disappear to the dressing room early feeling unwell and never returned during the second half.

Harrison, who revealed winger Ryan Donaldson will have to be assessed after leaving with his ankle in a protective boot, said: “The linesman went off feeling ill, felt dizzy, sick, so went down the tunnel.

“He looked very pale. It worked for us, so I will have it, but I am not sure whether he will go down on the papers as having an assist! I’m not sure what Devs will think of that!

“You see where teams waste time, it could have had an adverse effect on us. But we kept going and got the victory we needed.

“I don’t know what I was feeling when it went in. It’s nice for everyone to go home happy with a win. It’s nice for the players. It was testament and credit to the players, they asked questions and worked hard until the end.”

Barrow might have struggled so far this season, but they were still gifted two incredible chances to take the lead in the first half.

Hartlepool looked the more comfortable side in possession, and yet the visitors could point the finger at some poor finishing for not being ahead at half-time.

Barrow, without a win in six now, had two big and burly strikers playing together to cause problems for Scott Harrison and Louis Laing, but they grew in stature at the back as the game wore on.

After midfielder Bedsente Gomis had curled an effort from distance over the bar from distance after a weak header from Laing, front-men Jordan White and Byron Harrison somehow failed to test Scott Loach from close range.

Harrison was first after quarter of an hour when, with just Scott Loach to beat, he somehow chipped ten yards or even more over the bar from around eight yards.

White’s was just as bad though on half hour. When he was played in behind Harrison and Deverdics, the forward looked like he would score only to get his feet in a mess and he curled an easy effort wide away from the far post.

By no means was it the Barrow show though. Hartlepool, who were forced into an early change when the bright Donaldson had to be replaced by Rhys Oates, created a few couple of openings of their own before the break.

The best of them was when Donaldson’s low delivery from the right seemed perfect for Woods, who arrived perfectly at the near post but applied too much weight on his first time effort and directed it over from eight yards.

Woods also had an earlier effort roll wide, while Barrow goalkeeper Joel Dixon who spent a month on loan from Sunderland at Victoria Park three years ago, held a dangerous looking drive from Deverdics before the change of ends.

Hartlepool, who didn’t include latest signing Tomi Adeloye in their squad, needed to step things up after the break to claim the points. Despite seeing plenty of the ball again, though, it was still the visitors who had the best chance.

An awful Hartlepool corner allowed Barrow to counter-attack swiftly. Once down the opposite end of the pitch, Gomis forced Loach into a fine save from a difficult angle.

After that Hartlepool dominated without seriously testing Dixon. Time and again a blue and white shirt got in behind the visitors’ left-back but either the final ball was poor or there was nobody attacking the right areas.

Jack Munns was introduced for Rodney, who never really looked hungry to attack the penalty area to get on the end of deliveries, and that allowed Oates to be moved up front.

Hartlepool’s failure to make their pressure count almost proved costly. Pools academy graduate Dan Jones, now left wing-back for Barrow, went close with a free-kick that had to be well saved by Loach.

The four minute delay in play, after the assistant had to disappear, looked like it would cost Hartlepool dearly because in the closing stages Barrow had two fantastic chances to win it. Poor finishing, again, let them down.

Then, after Jonathan Franks had struck the foot of the post, Hartlepool got the breakthrough with the last attack. Deverdics had two chances to deliver from the right and with his second Woods charged into power a header high into the net.