Hartlepool Turn League Table Upside Down
Hartlepool United upset all the odds by recording their first away victory this season at league leaders Sheffield United
Hartlepool United, without a win on the road all season and winless anywhere since September, turned in one of the results of the season to beat table topping Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
After a heartless display at Carlisle on Boxing Day, John Hughes' side started the game with a vigour not seen in some time, closing down the ball and making life difficult for the home side.
With just seven minutes on the clock Pools took a shock lead when Evan Horwood's cross found Steve Howard lurking in the area. The much criticised striker planted a perfect header to send the ball past George Long and into the corner of the goal.
Pools could have been out of sight within the first 15 minutes but two great chances were spurned. First Jonathan Franks sent the ball into orbit after a well worked move gave him a sight of goal.
Then Steve Howard blew an excellent opportunity after the impressive Simon Walton picked him out in acres of space inside the area. Howard's snatched effort ended up comfortably over the bar.
Pools were penned back inside their own half for much of the first 45 but remained strong at the back, allowing only occasional chances for the home side.
A warning shot came when a fantastic ball was whipped across the goalmouth, but Dave Kitson arrived at the post too late to convert the chance.
It was an uncharacteristic mistake from Scott Flinders that finally saw the home side draw level. The goalkeeper appeared to misjudge Michael Doyle's effort and only able to get a weak palm to the Blades attacker's effort.
The pressure from the home side remained high but it was some of the most criticised Pools players who put in the best performances of the day. Howard gave the home defence a torrid afternoon while Simon Walton pulled strings from the middle of the park with a captain-like display.
The right hand side pairing of Jordan Richards and Jonathan Franks covered every blade of grass in a hard working display that could have seen either pick up the man of the match award. Evan Horwood similarly impressed on the opposite flank.
The second half continued to see Pools under pressure. The home side had a goal chalked out for offside just after the break, sparking handbags between Antony Sweeney and Sam Collins. Sluggish defending by the latter had appeared to play the United player onside.
But it was Pools who regained the lead after ten minutes of the second period when boyhood Sheffield United fan Ritchie Humphreys capped off a good passing move with a strong near post finish to send the 200 travelling fans into raptures.
Pools shocked the hosts once more when a break down the left hand side saw Horwood pick out substitute James Poole, he floated a ball into the box where Howard held off a defender and nodded the ball past the helpless Long.
It was the first time Pools had scored three on the road since October 2011 and while the hosts continued to apply pressure and even grabbed a 95th minute consolation through Harry Maguire, Pools held on for an unlikely victory that knocked the Blades off the top of the table.
FT: Sheffield United 2 Hartlepool 3
Hartlepool: Flinders, Richards, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Humphreys, Walton (Austin 69), Sweeney, Franks (Monkhouse 80), Wyke (Poole 60), Howard
Subs not used: McHugh, Baldwin, Holden, James
Sheffield United: Long, Westlake, Maguire, Hill, Flynn, Doyle (Cresswell 82), Blackman, McDonald, Kitson (Ironside 82), Cofie (Chapell 67), Williams
Subs not used: McAllister, Philliskirk, Kennedy, Coyne