Roy Kelly’s Mail match report: Plymouth Argyle 1 Hartlepool United 1

JUMPIN JACK FLASH: Jack Barmby celebrates his goal against Plymouth as a steward 'assists' a Thunderbird. Picture by FRANK REIDTNDERBIRDS have gone.
They came, they saw, they sang D.I.S.C.O and danced.
International Rescue will not be seen again with Hartlepool United.
But, hopefully, two local rescue acts will not disappear when the final whistle blows on this roller coaster of a season.
With Pools down to the bare bones and two of his key players on the verge of a suspension, boss Colin Cooper called his old pal, Kevin Ball, at Sunderland’s Academy.
Enter centre-half Scott Harrison and midfielder Connor Oliver.
The duo were talented, but very inexperienced, having just one Football League and less than 30 Barclays Premier Reserve League appearances between them.
Cooper said he had no qualms about playing the 20-year-olds if they were needed.
They were indeed needed, Harrison has been deputising for the injured Christian Burgess and Oliver came in for Simon Walton who will miss the end of this season, and the start of next, after a four-game suspension.
Harrison has slotted in nicely alongside Sam Collins, winning his tackles and headers and not being afraid to pass the ball out rather than giving it a welly.
Big Sam may not be up to the rigours of playing week-in, week-out next season, though it would be a brave man to suggest to his face that he won’t. He certainly still has a lot to offer but there could be a vacancy or two.
And so does Harrison, who has been learning a thing or two off the 36-year-old.
Could Cooper arrange a similar loan agreement to the one which brought Burgess to Victoria Park for Harrison and Oliver? The Pools boss, elsewhere in SportMail, has hinted just that.
There is an old saying about never judging a book by its cover. But human nature being human nature, it is difficult not to.
Oliver would appear to be the latest in an already impressive line of gems unearthed by Cooper, following on from Jack Barmby, Burgess, Jack Compton, Matty Dolan, Michael Duckworth and Luke Williams, not to mention the promotion of Brad Walker from the youth to first teams.
A Geordie playing for Sunderland, Oliver is a player happy in defence or midfield so ticks the versatile box.
He also ticks the mobile box, setting up attacks from deep and moving from back to front effortlessly.
His range of passing is highly impressive, the long ball to set away Darren Holden in the 80th minute was breathtaking.
Oliver is also not afraid to pull the trigger, attempting shots rom a variety of distances. None went in but you can’t knock the lad for ambition.
But, and it’s a big but, this was just Football League start number one.
For those in the ‘get rid of Walton’ corner it is something worth thinking about.
Walton has many detractors but this reporter is not one of them – I’d be keeping the 26-year-old. But Oliver would certainly prove a very useful signing.
The Black Cats product had the first shot of the day, the first Pools one anyway, after playing a super one-two with birthday boy Brad Walker in the 12th minute.
It went just wide of Jake Cole’s right-hand post and it signalled the away side’s intentions.
Pools played some nice stuff though Oliver was further away with 18th and 27th-minute attempts.
Plymouth were the more dangerous side in the first half, midfielder Remy Boco wide in the opening seconds and old stager Enoch Showunmi went for the spectacular finish on 35 minutes from Con Hourihane’s inviting cross but went over.
But the Pilgrims did score and it was a beauty, Jason Banton jinking his way into the box before beating Scott Flinders from 15 yards.
The lead could have doubled, but at the end of the half Collins dealt superbly with Showunmi and Flinders saved from Hourihane.
A 1-0 Plymouth lead looked fair enough but Pools upped the tempo and upped the quality. Barmby had two attempts with his left foot, one which went wide and one which Cole seemed to save with his hands and chin!
John Sheridan’s side were not without their chances and another player with a great left peg, Hourihane, had two shots at the other end, one fizzing wide and one being saved by Flinders.
But with Collins and Co defending superbly and the midfield picking up a lot of ball, Pools were the more potent force. Granted the 67th-minute equaliser was assisted by Durrell Berry, but what a finish from Barmby.
Defender Berry made a dreadful attempt at heading a Marlon Harewood flick on back towards Cole. It went inches rather than yards and Barmby stepped in and lobbed the ball in from 14 yards.
Five days after cementing Pools’ Football League status with the winner against Morecambe, it was another touch of class. Pools twice went close to a winner.
Barmby had just exited play when Oliver released Holden in the 80th minute with the pass of the match. The full-back tore down the left channel and into the box but his left-foot shot, admittedly from an angle, went wide.
On Monday, it was Compton who had netted the equaliser and then Barmby the winner.
At Home Park, the roles were, almost, reversed. Compton, a late first-half sub for Andy Monkhouse, set off on a long 88th-minute run down the right before cutting in and hitting a shot from the edge of the box on his favoured left peg. Cole was beaten but the shot came back off his left post and Oliver’s follow-up was blocked.
Pools had three other promising attacks but, sadly, all three deliveries from sub Jordan Richards were not quite how he would have liked them to have been.
Sub Reuben Reid, was denied late on by Flinders after the Plymouth player of the year had got the better of Harrison.
And there was almost a sting in the tail in the third minute of stoppage time when Hourihane hit the right-hand post of Flinders.


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