A Harry Middleton strike with 20 minutes left on the clock gave Port Vale Reserves a 2-1 victory against Hartlepool yesterday afternoon.
The Valiants couldn't have got off to a better start. Dan Turner found himself behind enemy lines after just 13 seconds, and calmly slotted the ball past Hartlepool keeper Elliott Stephenson to put Vale one up.
The lead lasted just 15 minutes in a lively opening to the game, as Joe Jackson equalised for the home side through striker Joe Jackson. Hartlepool's leveller was their first chance of of the match, as Liam Pritchard got free on the left of the area and cut the ball back for Jackson to score from close range.
Striker Dior Angus started on the right-hand side of Vale's 4-2-3-1 line up, and looked lively throughout. Hartlepool struggled to deal with his pace and skill and created plenty of problems before he was taken off after 73 minutes as a precaution after picking up a knock.
Angus nearly added to Hartlepool's dreadful start seconds after Turner put the Vale in front. The striker found himself free on the right of the area but was denied by the keeper at the near post.
Stephenson seemed determined to deny Angus at every opportunity, saving at his near post again just before the break. The former Redditch forward came closer seven minutes into the second half when his long ranged shot forcing a fine save from Stephenson.
It was Harry Middleton though who would prove to be the difference between the two sides after a goalmouth scramble. Angus was in the thick of the action again after his effort was denied on the line, before the Middleton fired the ball into the top corner from just outside the box to give Vale the win.
Reserve coach Mick Ede said: "We started really brightly. We had worked on shape, not dissimilar to what the first team did, trying to get more width so we could get the ball into our wingers and try to get crosses in. I think that worked, certainly in the first 30 minutes or so we did cause them big problems.
"We got off to a great start with Dan scoring on 13 seconds. He has pinched the ball, gone past a couple of players and passed it past the keeper. You think from there you are just going to go on and on, but it doesn't always happen like that.
"Overall I am pleased with the boys' work ethic, but it was just their quality in the final third a little bit at times. That is especially in front of goal where you are creating really good opportunities and just have to be a little more ruthless."
Hartlepool: Stephenson, Boyle, Holliday, Orrell, Miller, Bayne, Robinson (Cunningham, 67), Weirs, Travers (Short, 79), Jackson, Pritchard.
Port Vale: Lainton, Thomas, Steele (Ward, 56), Calveley, Howe, Middleton, Reeves, Angus (Grimshaw, 73) Regis, Benns, Turner.
Subs: Crockwell, Jackson