Eoin Doyle scored in the fourth minute of added time to send the Lilywhites into the second round of the EFL Cup at Deepdale with a 1-0 win over Craig Hignett’s Hartlepool United.
The Irishman slammed home from substitute Chris Humphrey’s low ball in from the right hand side to give them a deserved win, even though, the game looked at that stage to be heading for extra-time.
There were only two changes by manager Simon Grayson from the side that started the opening EFL game against Reading the previous weekend; Tom Clarke ruled out and Jermaine Beckford on the bench, Alan Browne and Eoin Doyle coming into the side in a 4-4-2 for the Lilywhites.
The first half, whilst presenting no goals, was a thoroughly entertaining affair, with North End completely dominant, sat for the majority of the game in the Hartlepool United half.
The first chance came Ben Pringle’s way – the midfielder making his home debut – Greg Cunningham’s cross from left was to the back post and Pringle met the ball on volley, cushioning it towards the top right corner, only to see the ball well saved by Adam Bartlett in the goal. From the resulting corner Joe Garner’s header was seemingly handled away, but not given as a penalty by referee Andy Woolmer.
Paul Gallagher then pushed on from the left hand side to approximately 22 yards from goal and hit a goalbound strike, only for Tote Nsiala to head over for a corner.
Just before the half our mark Garner had the ball in the net; chesting down and volleying home from Gallagher’s free kick, but the offside flag went up; only for replays to show he was onside.
Five minutes before the interval another Gallagher corner from the left was curled in and Alan Browne met the ball powerfully, heading inches wide of the right hand upright.
Jordan Hugill, against his former loan club, and Callum Robinson were introduced just after the hour mark and from the latter’s corner Paul Huntington saw a powerful header acrobatically cleared off the line as the chances kept coming for North End.
Hugill then latched onto a blocked shot from Robinson, rounded the goalkeeper, but found the outside of the left hand post from a very narrow angle as the game approached the final 20 minutes.
With three and a half minutes to go Eoin Doyle met Callum Robinson’s cross, forcing a save out of Bartlett; the ball eventually came back to Doyle, who fired goalwards only for Matthew Bates the Pools captain to clearly handle the ball to block it. The referee was in a perfect position, but somehow was unmoved as the visitors scrambled the ball clear.
In the second minute of three added on North End broke and Eoin Doyle found Robinson clear in the box, but the young forward scooped his shot over the bar, meaning that it looked like an extra 30 minutes would be needed to decide the tie.
However, 30 second past the three signalled minutes Chris Humphrey broke down the right hand side, drilled a low ball into the box and Eoin Doyle was on hand to slam the ball into the back of the net and send the Lilywhites into the second round.
PNE line-up: Lindegaard, Grimshaw, Cunningham, Browne, Wright, Huntington, Pringle (Humphrey, 81), Johnson (Robinson, 63), Garner (Hugill, 63), Doyle, Gallagher (c). Subs not used: Maxwell, Beckford, Spurr, Welsh.
Hartlepool United line-up: Bartlett, Magnay, Carroll, Bates (c), Thomas, Amond, Woods, Alessandra, Deverdics, Nsiala, Laurent. Subs not used: Dudzinski, Featherstone, Jones, Oates, Hawkins, Richards, Smith.
Referee: Mr A Woolmer
Attendance: 4,509 (180 Hartlepool United fans)