Hartlepool 1 Colchester 0

ANTONY SWEENEY has certainly scored better goals than his winner on Saturday; but how many of them have proved as important?

His top two in terms of style and panache are a twisting volley against MK Dons in January, 2005, and a rasping first-time strike from distance against Millwall in March, 2009.

A volley on the turn in the 88th minute against Colchester, number 11 of this season, was the 48th of his career.

In terms of value it was up there with the best of them.

Pools looked like their winless streak, going back to January 1, was going to stretch to eight games.

Two minutes remained when Evan Horwood lobbed the ball from half-way into the area. Andy Monkhouse and Matt Heath jumped and missed and it opened up for Sweeney to arrest the slide on the day he became Pools’ tenth most used player of all time.

“Given the circumstances of the last month, I think that’s the best of my goals this season. We couldn’t afford to lose this and to win so late on and get three points was vital,’’ he admitted.

“The manager has been working with us on that freekick since pre-season. It’s hard to defend and at times defenders have hooked it away, but luckily it dropped for me. I was a bit surprised at the bounce but it went in.’’ Tuesday’s 4-0 humbling at Oldham, coming on the back of a similar outcome at Peterborough, was, Pools hope, a turning point.

Wednesday was spent watching a DVD of the game, as a few home truths were told in the dressing room.

“Confidence has taken a dent over the last month. We can take losing but at one or two down we’ve crumbled a bit and to lose at Peterborough and Oldham by four, you shouldn’t lie down like we have done,’’ he added.

“It’s not like us to do that because at two you are still in it, at three or four it’s different.

Maybe it was a lack of confidence, but before that we were riding high and it shows again that everyone can take points off everyone.

“Maybe the key is not to get so carried away with wins and equally not get too down with defeats. You cannot take your foot off the gas in this league.

We need to be consistent and for us to win games, everyone has to be on their game.

“Maybe other teams can still pick up points if a few of them are below par, but we all have to be at it, and that’s what we have spoken about. If we do it in the majority of games we will be all right.’’ Pools switched formation on Saturday, lining up in a rare 4-4-2, and while Sweeney took up a spot on the right flank, he was his usual energetic self.

“The manager said before the game we had a stronger looking bench and players are desperate to play. From the Oldham game, anyone could have been dropped,’’ he said.

“Anyone getting a shirt had to earn it, and prove themselves.

Larks (Colin Larkin) came in, he hasn’t played much lately, and was a handful running at them.

“We maybe had a bit of luck at the end when they missed a chance, but perhaps we were due it against them – we lost down there to a penalty that never was.

“If they had scored at the end, and we had thrown two points away, this whole week would have been a different story.’’ That chance came after Sweeney’s goal. Steven Gillespie had a free header in front of Scott Flinders’ goal, but managed to put it wide.

Chances throughout were scarce.

Sweeney took a pass from Paul Murray and looked a likely scorer, but keeper Mark Cousins was off his line to stop.

The Us created little and talk of them being a top-six side seems way off the mark.

Larkin was put up front in the second half and his strong running around as Ritchie Humphreys held the ball up gave Pools a different option.

Larkin was denied a goal by Cousins, who saved the follow- up from Humphreys as well.

Manager Mick Wadsworth repeated on Saturday that every goal, every point, every win for his side has to be earned.

On Saturday they earned their reward.

Match facts

Goal: 1-0: Sweeney (88, turned the ball in from eight yards after free-kick was put in the area from halfway)

Bookings: Mooney (45, foul), Gillespie (72, foul), Murray (74, foul), Collins (80, foul)

Referee: Trevor Kettle (Whissendine): A referee who is unable to go through a game without causing the odd moment of sheer confusion 5

Attendance: 2,646

Entertainment: **


6 Flinders: Always alert and ready when called upon, in terms of saving he wasn’t exerted;

5 Haslam: Didn’t get ahead on the overlap when he had the chance to make the most of openings

6 Collins: Busier later on when Odejayi was put on, but always in control

6 Hartley: Unlucky not to score early on, and had plenty of first-half possession

6 Horwood: Described by John Ward as having one of the best left foots in the division, and proved it with good delivery at times;

7 Sweeney: Drifted in from the flank to good use. Had two chances – saw one saved and buried the other

7 MURRAY: Tenacious in another performance in which the majority of Pools’ play went through him

6 Liddle: Part of a free-roaming midfield and found space to attack down the flanks

6 Humphreys: Started on the left where he kept the team shape, and moved up front to hold up possession in the latter stages;

5 Brown: Service wasn’t to his liking as Pools often knocked it long for him to scrap for

5 Boyd: A rare start for the striker, but didn’t get much change from the dominant centre-half pairing


Monkhouse (for Brown 64): Made his mark when he was introduced on the left, a positive reaction 6

Larkin (for Boyd 64): Full of pace and nifty running and unlucky not to score soon after his arrival 7

McSweeney (for Humphreys 89)

(not used): Rafferty (gk), Gamble, Yantorno, Donaldson.


Cousins 7; Beevers 5, CLARKE 7, Heath 7, Coker 5; Bond 5, James 6, Izzet 5, Perkins 6 (Wordsworth 60, 6); Gillespie 5, Mooney 5 (Odejayi 70, 6).

Subs (not used): Baldwin, Vincent, Henderson, White, Pentney (gk)


PAUL Murray – once again set the tone for Pools performance.