It was a tale of two penalties in North End’s penultimate pre-season game as Joe Garner scored and Thorsten Stuckmann saved from 12 yards with the Lilywhites coming out 1-0 winners at Victoria Park.
North End went ahead 22 minutes in, Joe Garner the beneficiary from the spot after Graham Cummins had been pulled back when trying to get on the end of Alex Nicholson’s right wing cross.
The goal came as an illustration of North End’s effectiveness on the counter attack in the first half, having shown good pace to soak up pressure and then break on a number of occasions.
They were close to opening the scoring on 13 minutes; a Joel Byrom free kick from the left was met by Joe Garner, who flicked a header just past the right hand post from 12 yards out.
The opener came almost at the half’s mid-point. On the ground where the Lilywhites were awarded their first penalty of the 2012/13 season, back on New Year’s Day, they again were awarded a chance from 12 yards out when former Newcastle youngster Alex Nicholson latched onto a ball from Jeffrey Monakana and crossed from the right hand touchline.
Graham Cummins had made a good run and seemed destined to put the ball past Scott Flinders, but he was pulled back when thrusting for the ball and referee David Webb had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Joe Garner won the battle of who would take the opportunity and powered low and left, sending Flinders the wrong way to give the red and black-striped Lilywhites the lead – wearing their new away kit for the first time. This made him the top scorer in pre-season thus far, his third goal of the preparatory campaign.
The home side had a number of half chances to draw level, Andy Mpnkhouse and James Poole could have both done better with shooting opportunities, but could only find the away stand behind Thorsten Stuckmann’s goal, however on 33 minutes young midfielder Brad Walker had the best of the chances.
The ‘Pools 17-year-old found the ball falling at his feet 12 yards out in a left hand channel with the goal gaping after a good corner in from the right, but he could not direct his left foot shot and it went wide to the right of Thorsten Stuckmann’s goal.
The home side’s own spot was won on 51 minutes, Jeffrey Monakana adjudged to have brought down Jack Compton just inside the left hand edge of the box.
Compton himself stepped up to take it, but just as in pre-season two years previous, Thorsten Stuckmann dived full length to his left to palm the ball away and eventually it was cleared up the other end to safety.
North End had been under pressure from the early part of the half, but on 56 minutes some excellent play involving Garner, Hayhurst and Byrom set up Croasdale on the edge of the box, however, the young Lancaster-born midfielder could not keep the ball down from the egde of the penalty area.
A really good opportunity for Andy Monkhouse just after the hour mark as a ball in from the left was met by the wing man, firing wide left when it seemed easier to have it nestle in the bottom corner.
On 72 minutes North End won a corner for Byrom to deliver inswinging from the right, but despite his excellent play on re-receiving the ball, the home side were able to clear.
A James Poole free kick from 25 yards out was up and over the bar with ten minutes left, as the multiple changes by the home side slowed the tempo of the game.
In the closing stages Simon Grayson gave youth team skipper Josh Brownhill a run out in the centre of midfield, but it was the penalty taker and penalty saver who took the plaudits in the north east as the match official ended the game.
: Flinders, Austin (Duckworth, 57), Hartley, Walker, Collins (Burgess, 69), Baldwin, Poole (Richards, 88), Sweeney © (Franks, 69), James (Rodney, 69), Monkhouse, Compton. Subs not used: Walton, Rafferty, Holden.Hartlepool United
: Stuckmann, Nicholson, Laird, Byrom, Huntington ©, Cansdell-Sherriff, Monakana (Trialist, 73), Croasdale (Brownhill, 88), Cummins, Garner (Beardsley, 73), Hayhurst. Subs not used: James, Gray, Roscoe.PNE line-up
: 829 (133 away fans)Attendance
: Mr D WebbReferee