Hartlepool United’s first League Cup game in four years ended in a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Crewe Alexandra, thanks to Callum Ainley’s second half strike.
Pools will have been raring to go after their 1-0 win in their opening game at the weekend, but faced opposition from the league above in the Carabao Cup. Crewe started the strongest, but the Railway men were down to 10 a quarter of an hour into the tie as Billy Sass-Davies brought down Tyler Burey, denying a goal scoring opportunity.
This paved a way for the Monkey Hangers to get back into the game, as they started to dominate the ball but couldn’t break down the resilient Crewe defence, despite defender Jamie Sterry hitting the woodwork.
Five minutes into the second half, Ainley gave Alexandra the lead. Hartlepool applied the pressure for the remaining 40 minutes but could not find an opening as David Artell’s side defended resolutely and earned a spot in the second round.
Reflecting – via the club’s media stream – Dave Challinor said: “I’m disappointed, I suppose it just reemphasises where we need to improve and where we need to get better. I thought we were a little bit toothless up the top end of the pitch, and conceded a poor goal from one of their fleeted attacks.”
“When they went down to 10 men did that make it a little bit harder for ourselves? No not really. If you’re asking me now whether I’d rather play against 10 men or 11 I’ll play against 10 the rest of the season quite happily.
“You can tell the difference in levels in the first 10-15 minutes, in terms of that sharpness and intensity. It is a step up without question”
This is unfortunate for Hartlepool as they will have felt they could’ve won the tie, due to the sending off making the game a more level playing field.
They did not create enough chances and Challinor is disappointed for this reason.
Defeat, though, allows their immediate focus to drift back to League Two. That’s no bad thing and although an early cup exit is disappointing, there are positives to take.