Hartlepool United v Latics
Jose Baxter snatched a dramatic injury-time victory for Latics at Hartlepool United as they returned to winning ways in npower League One.
The former Everton striker scored both goals as Latics won 2-1 at Victoria Park for the second time in 2012.
And just as happened in March, Latics travelled to the North East badly in need of points after a disappointing run of results.
Latics had slipped into the bottom four following Saturday’s second-half collapse at Bournemouth where they lost 4-1.
But they produced grit and determination with Paul Dickov praising his side’s battling qualities and never-say-die spirit as they fought to the end to post a third away league victory after earlier successes at Portsmouth and Crewe.
Latics’ manager said: “I was happy with the application, attitude and work rate of the boys, though I know we can play a lot better.
“It got a bit hairy towards the end, but the main thing is that we came here and got three points.”
Dickov added he had stressed three things to the players before the match.
“I wrote on the board work rate, desire and pride. I said if we get those three things, we will win the game, and we did.”
And Latics’ manager thought his side deserved their fortune with Baxter’s opening goal by pressing the ball.
“Whether we got the luck we deserved, I don’t know. I think the work rate and attitude of the players deserved it. It was chalk and cheese compared to Saturday,” he said.
Though Hartlepool are bottom, Dickov believes it will only be a matter of time before they starting picking up under new manager John Hughes on the evidence of their spirited display against Latics.
Dickov added they must quickly draw a line under the victory and move on to Shrewsbury Town who visit Boundary Park on Saturday.
“I am delighted with the victory but I said I wanted six points from tonight and Saturday so we are only half-way there,” he continued.
The only dampeners were the fifth bookings of the campaign picked up by Baxter and Cristian Montano which rules both players out of Saturday’s game.
Latics made three changes from Saturday as Dean Furman and James Wesolowski returned after suspension while there was a recall for Connor Brown for suspended left-back Jonathan Grounds.
Robbie Simpson was ruled out through a groin strain while Youssouf M’Changama dropped down to the bench.
Latics received an early let off when a header from Steve Howard hit the upright.
They rode their luck to take a 17th minute when Hartlepool were caught trying to play the ball out from the back.
Goalkeeper Scott Flinders’s short pass was intercepted by Matt Derbyshire who played in Baxter who was gifted the opening goal.
Latics had chances to build an even more commanding first-half advantage as Derbyshire had a goal ruled out for offside. Lee Croft’s drive was parried by Flinders with Derbyshire netting the rebound.
Furman also fired just wide after Baxter squared a free kick into his path.
Hartlepool came out firing in the second period as Peter Hartley headed not far wide while Jonathan Franks’s shot was well saved by keeper Dean Bouzanis.
They were eventually rewarded with a 64th minute equaliser when Bouzanis parried another long-range effort from Franks and Antony Sweeney pounced to fire the rebound into the roof of the net.
Suddenly Hartlepool were on the front foot as Howard headed just wide.
Latics had brought on Youssouf M’Changama for Montano just short of the hour to strengthen the midfield while Matt Smith replaced Lee Croft with 20 minutes left.
The balance of play tilted Latics’ way in the 76th minute when Hartlepool were reduced to 10 men after Neil Austin was sent off for a dangerous sliding challenge on James Wesolowski.
Dickov thought Austin was unlucky to be dismissed saying he deemed it a yellow-card offence, but the sending off “galvanised” the hosts for a time before Latics started to pick them off.
M’Changama crashed a shot narrowly wide and then saw a header hit the upright as Latics pressed for a winner bringing on winger Chris Sutherland as an additional attacker against the 10 men.
They were eventually rewarded when they won a 91st minute penalty when substitute Jack Baldwin – he only came on after Austin was sent off – handled a cross from Reece Wabara and referee Craig Pawson pointed to the spot.
There was further drama as Baxter won an argument with Derbyshire for the right to take the penalty.
Baxter then saw Flinders make a brilliant save low to his right but the ball squirmed away from the keeper and Baxter, following up, slotted in the rebound, his eighth goal of the campaign.
And the jubilant scenes from Latics’ players at the final whistle underlined just how much it meant to them as they savoured a first league victory in six attempts.
`Hartlepool (4-2-1-3): Flinders; Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood; Murray(Noble 86), Walton (Monkhouse 38); Sweeney; Franks (Baldwin 78), Howard, Humphreys. Subs (not used): Foden, Poole, Luscombe, Wyke.
Latics (4-4-2): Bouzanis; Wabara, M’voto, Byrne, Brown; Croft (Smith 71), Furman, Wesolowski (Sutherland 85), Montano (M’Changama 59); Baxter, Derbyshire. Subs (not used): Cisak, Tarkowski, Winchester, Mellor.
Sending off: Austin (76) for Hartlepool.
Bookings: Humphreys (21), Horwood (90+4) for Hartlepool. Montano (32), Croft (51), Baxter (90+6) for Latics.
Referee: Mr C Pawson.
Attendance: 3,078 (91 visitors).