If you ever wanted proof at how unpredictable sport is, and how quickly the course of a game of football can change, look no further that Saturday’s game between Hartlepool and Carlisle.

In a summer where sport-thirsty fans have been left with their jaws dropping at shock results at the Euros, Olympics and Paralympics, at Victoria Park, football followed a similar pattern, Carlisle coming away with a 2-1 win. A victory that is hard to fathom how they earned.

Up until 70 minutes Hartlepool were cruising. They even had the lead, courtesy of James Poole’s acute finish on the cusp of half time. Steve Howard was a battering ram up front for the hosts, Poole combining with the big man, running in behind the Cumbrians’ defence. For the first time this season, there was cohesion between the strike force.

Paul Murray sat and played the anchor role. Andy Monkhouse and Jono Franks flanked Murray and the marauding Antony Sweeney, the widemen proving threathening from the wings.

Carlisle had brief interludes of possession whereby they penned themselves into Pools’ half but the Pools defence contained them and suppressed them back. It should have been 1-0 well before Poole’s maiden strike of the season. The game should have been dead and buried in reality.

Monkhouse volleyed, Howard fizzed a grass-cutter, Poole volleyed, Sweeney tried an audacious lob and Howard headed. All to no avail. Matty Robson responded, trying his fortune with a dangerous looking half volley that eventually landed out for a throw in, and the left midfielder also sent a downwards header just wide.

Hartley and Collins were defending obdurately, refuting any ball that was post-carded for their markers. At the opposite end, Poole was threatening, jinxing this way and that. He soon got his reward. Scott Flinders punted towards Howard who flicked on towards Poole, telegraphing his strike partner’s nod on. Poole got behind the defend and squeezed the ball in.

Before then, however, if it wasn’t for hesitance, the home side could well have broken the deadlock much earlier. Poole refused to shoot when the goal was invitingly in sight, Monkhouse opted to pass to a boxed-in Austin instead of crossing and there were other similar scenarios where Neale Cooper’s men could have crossed, and didn’t. It was to prove costly later on too.

The expense of their waste should have arrived 10 minutes into the second half. The otherwise efficient Murray pushed an horrendously short ball towards Flinders from the half-way line, Jake Jervis stealing the possession, rounding the oncoming Flinders but firing high. The Vic sighed with relief.

The vocal home support were then gasping for breath, wondering how their lead hadn’t been extended.

Sweeney went searching for a deep header. Monkhouse tucked into the box, unleashed a shot that was saved. He thundered the rebound at Gillespie who managed to use his body to release the pressure. Carlisle brought on Beck to add height to their front line, and to also stop the Pools momentum.

Howard deserved a goal and it looked as if he was to get his reward when Austin swung a cross in, he controlled, took his time, pick his spot and then curled an effort onto the bar. The ex-Luton man turned to the crowd, mouth open, shaking his head, and hands stretched out wide. It was body language for ‘what do I have to do?’

What he had to do minutes later was go in defence, for in the space of minutes the visitors clawed their way back through Danny Cadamarteri, had the luxury of an extra man after Austin was brandished a second yellow and former Pools boy Matty Robson stuck a dagger into his former side, finishing beyond Flinders on 82 minutes.

Cooper was reemployed as the governor, alternating his tactics in ten frantic, heart-in-mouth minutes. Peter Hartley went off injured, Jack Baldwin came on. Baldwin went centre-half, then Howard did. Pools went from 4-4-2 to 4-4-1 to 3-4-2. Carlisle piled on the pressure, had a free kick deflected before Robson punished Pools.

You can find me on Twitter @cmbell310 for more football chat.

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