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Keith Curle pays tribute to players after reshuffled Hartlepool claim FA Cup win

Keith Curle’s Hartlepool defeated Harrogate (Ashley Western/PA)
Keith Curle’s Hartlepool defeated Harrogate (Ashley Western/PA)

Hartlepool boss Keith Curle paid tribute to his players for delivering a place in the FA Cup third round despite having to cope with injury troubles in the build up to the tie.

The League Two strugglers lost goalkeeper Ben Killip to injury and had to sign Fleetwood’s Alex Cairns as an emergency loan before facing Harrogate.

That was one of five changes, a mixture of injury problems and tactical, but Hartlepool still managed to brush aside 10-man Harrogate 3-1 at the Suit Direct Stadium to secure their place in the draw.

Curle, whose team are at the foot of League Two, said: “I will take anyone at home in the next round. Every coach/manager wants anyone at home because you have a chance of progressing. Whoever it is in the next round, this place would be bouncing.

“It’s nice to progress because Ben failed his fitness test, I was advised he wasn’t going to be available, so we were scrambling around and credit to the recruitment team they gave me the opportunity to select a replacement of the quality of Cairns. He came in, looked assured and did the simple things very well.

“Credit to the players too. They understood the reshuffling we have had to do, that gave them a little nudge and they played with freedom and that competitiveness we need.”

Callum Cooke’s thunderous free-kick put Hartlepool ahead in the 41st minute before striker Josh Umerah slotted in a penalty in first-half stoppage time.

Harrogate full-back Joe Mattock, who had already been booked, picked up his second caution for bringing down Umerah and conceding that spot-kick.

And 19 minutes before the end Umerah powered in his 10th of the season to effectively seal Hartlepool’s third-round place there and then.

But Harrogate did pull one back through substitute Josh Coley a couple of minutes later and Luke Armstrong came within inches of adding a second near the end.

Curle added: “Cooke’s free-kick…I watch a lot of players put the ball down and go for the (Cristiano) Ronaldo dippy free-kick – I like those who smash it and those can go in. Callum has goals in him and we said before the game to make yourself a goal threat and he did.”

Harrogate boss Simon Weaver was bitterly disappointed with the result, suggesting that it was nowhere near the standard he wants to see from his team.

He also rued the additional income that progressing in the FA Cup would have brought.

Weaver said: “We were timid first half. We weren’t the same team who were brilliant last week, and it was the same XI who beat Bradford in the last round.

“It was a surprise performance, how timid we were. We didn’t pass the ball well enough, there was a lack of quality. There was a distinct lack of quality and application.

“The lads who came off the bench showed a step up in intensity.

“It was a great opportunity to put money into the coffers of the club, we work so hard to make it work at this level and the FA Cup does help.

“There was an intensity this week to do well. This morning we woke up wanting to do well, but the first half made things massively difficult. We conceded a free-kick that led to the first goal then the sending off of Joe Mattock and the penalty was bitterly disappointing.

“It is not fair on the players who came on if they are as dejected as the rest of the group. But we didn’t show enough personality.”