Report: Hartlepool 0 Blackpool 1
Mark Cullen made it a very merry Christmas as he fired Blackpool to three hard-fought points at Hartlepool United on Boxing Day.
The striker raced on to Andy Taylor’s long ball and was coolness personified when tucking home the only goal of the game in the second-half.
It wasn’t without drama however, as Hartlepool striker Lewis Alessandra blazed over a penalty kick six minutes from time, following Tom Aldred’s hand ball.
While not always pretty on the eye, The Seasiders were worthy of their victory, which kept them in the hunt for a top seven spot.
In blustery conditions on the coast, Blackpool started shakily and had to weather the Hartlepool storm, which included Nicky Featherstone firing over from range.
The Seasiders were struggling to clear their lines and Josh Laurent stung the palms of Sam Slocombe soon after, before the goalkeeper comfortably held from Rhys Oates.
It took until the 29th minute for Blackpool to really threaten the Hartlepool goal, but neither Kyle Vassell, nor Cullen, could get a strong enough connection on Danny Pugh’s cross to give their side the lead.
A brisk counter attack soon after saw the hosts come close to the breakthrough, but terrific defending from Aldred denied Alessandra.
As half-time approached Pool were looking their most threatening from set pieces and Vassell nodded a Pugh corner wide, while at the other end Billy Paynter dragged an effort harmlessly off target.
Half-Time: Hartlepool 0 Blackpool 0
It took the visitors just two second-half minutes to test Trevor Carson. When Cullen’s cross was met by the head of Vassell it looked set to be 1-0, but the goalkeeper produced a fine one-handed save to keep his side level.
It was all Pool after the break and Brad Potts volleyed over soon after, when going to ground. They were given a let off on the hour-mark however, as Alessandra guided Oates’ cross off target.
And they made the most of that fortune by taking the lead on 64 minutes. A long punt up field by Taylor sent Cullen racing clear and the striker composed himself before slipping home the opener.
They looked comfortable from there and solidified things by bringing on Danny Philliskirk for Osayi-Samuel. It was Cullen with the taste for it however and he had a shot held by Carson soon after.
There would be more drama however, as a looping cross was met by the arm of Aldred, forcing the referee to point to the spot. Alessandra stepped up but cleared the cross bar to let Blackpool off the hook.
That deflated the hosts who couldn’t muster another clear-cut chance, ensuring it was The Seasiders who celebrated Christmas with three points.
Full-Time: Hartlepool 0 Blackpool 1