MATCH REPORT: Hartlepool 0-1 Blackpool

Mark Cullen scored for the second time in three matches.
Mark Cullen scored for the second time in three matches.
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Blackpool got back to winning ways with a 1-0 win at Hartlepool in the traditional Boxing Day fixture.

Mark Cullen's second half effort, his second in his last three games, was enough to secure the win for the Seasiders in a game played in almost unplayable conditions at Victoria Park.

Pool had a late scare when Hartlepool were awarded a penalty after Tom Aldred was punished for a handball in the penalty area, but Lewis Alessandra blazed it high over the bar and Pool held on for a crucial win.

The hosts made a bright start to the game as the Seasiders struggled to get to grips with the windy conditions, with the Pools failing to take advantage of a couple of early opportunities as the ball bounced around the Blackpool box.

Hartlepool did eventually register a shot at goal but it caused little harm, with midfielder Nicky Featherstone shooting narrowly over the bar from the edge of the box.

They continued to pile on the pressure but were frustrated by a stubborn Pool defence, and instead chose to work the ball from side to side on the edge of the box on one occasion too many.

All the action continued to take place in the Blackpool half, with Josh Laurent stinging the palms of Pool goalkeeper Sam Slocombe with a sweetly struck volley.

The Tangerines looked to get the ball down in the early stages and play on the floor, but they struggled to keep it stick in the strong winds with Hartlepool’s more direct approach proving more effective.

Gary Bowyer’s side were also overrun in midfield by virtue of Hartlepool’s extra man in midfield.

But as the half wore on, the Seasiders began to see more of the ball and worked some promising moves in the final third.

One of these saw the ball land to striker Mark Cullen in the Hartlepool penalty area, but his shot was deflected safely into the arms of Pools goalkeeper Trevor Carson.

The home side immediately broke and a hopeful punt over the top fortunately found its way to Lewis Alessandra, but Tom Aldred recovered well to block his shot after the Pools midfielder had cut inside, looking to curl home an effort inside the Blackpool penalty area.

The hosts continued to look dangerous on the counter attack but Blackpool were giving them too many opportunities to do so by giving the ball away needlessly in the opposition half time and time again.

But Hartlepool didn’t have the required quality to take advantage, which may go some way to explaining their lowly league position.

Probably the best chance of the game came Blackpool’s way in the final minute of the half, with Kyle Vassell stretching to bend his neck to get on the end of Danny Pugh’s inswinging corner, but he could only nod narrowly wide of the far post.

The second half started just as the first half ended, with Vassell going close to breaking the deadlock with a header. But this time Pools stopper Trevor Carson produced a fine one-handed save to tip it wide of goal, after Vassell had got on the end of Cullen’s smart cross.

Brad Potts could only volley over after the ball fell nicely for him inside the 18-yard box after getting on the end of Bright Osayi-Samuel’s through ball.

The home crowd thought they had a goal to celebrate when the dangerous Alessandra drilled a rasping volley at goal from the edge of the box, but it went the wrong side of the post.

It was a bit of a let off for the Tangerines who had looked the more likely to open the scoring at the start of the second half.

But it didn’t take long for them to take advantage of Hartlepool’s sloppiness in front of goal, with the deadlock being broken courtesy of Mark Cullen.

The striker scampered away to get himself on the end of Andy Taylor’s long ball over the Hartlepool defence before producing a drilled effort across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner - before wheeling away to celebrate in front of the Blackpool fans behind the goal.

Hartlepool pressed for an equaliser in the final stages and showed plenty of desire and effort, but their quality was lacking as their supporters’ frustration began to show.

But they were gifted a route back into the game after Tom Aldred had bizarrely handed in the box when under no real pressure.

But the resulting penalty was blazed well over the bar by Lewis Alessandra - a miss that typified his side’s performance.

Hartlepool: Carson, Donnelly, Bates, Harrison, Carroll, Featherstone, Laurent (Woods), Hawkins, Oates, Alessandra (Deverdics), Paynter (Amond)

Subs not used: Bartlett, Richards, Nsiala, Walker

Blackpool: Slocombe, Mellor, Aldred, Robertson, Taylor, Potts, McAlister, Pugh, Osayi-Samuel (Philliskirk), Vassell, Cullen

Subs not used: Lyness, Nolan, Aimson, Payne, Matt, Gnanduillet

Referee: Geoff Eltringham

Attendance: 3,767 (276)