THIS might have been a friendly – but try telling that to Jim Goodwin!
A second-half goal by Andy Booth on 50 minutes was cancelled out by goals from James McArthur and Simon Mensing as Town were beaten 2-1 by Scottish Premier League new boys Hamilton Academical (who didn’t list former Town striker Lucas Akins in their squad) in the opening match of the Hartlepool Centenary Tournament at Victoria Park.
Goodwin, 26, produced a fiery and enthusiastic display as he tried to unsettle the momentum of the Hamilton midfield, and he looks set to become a sure crowd-pleaser with his never-say-die approach.
Boss Stan Ternant started with a 3-5-2 formation with Nathan Clarke, Chris Lucketti and impressive Andy Butler making up the defence with Andy Holdsworth and Joe Skarz operating wide.
And it made for an open game with Town having the better of the early chances, many of which fell to Danny Cadamateri, who showed good industry and gave the SPL side’s defence plenty of food for thought.
An excellent early cross by Goodwin picked out Cadamateri but his header was straight at goalkeeper Tomas Cerny, who denied Town a lead inside the first minute. Hamilton striker Richard Offiong was the class player on the field and gave Lucketti the run-around on 12 minutes, but his cross was wasted before later trying a delicate chip over goalkeeper Matt Glennon, without reward.
Town were not in awe, however, with Booth going close with a trademark effort – hanging in the air at the far post for what seemed an age – but he was left frustrated when his header crashed out off the corner of bar and post.
Ex-Blackpool midfielder Michael Flynn, 27, produced some timely probing runs into the box and was inches off connecting to a certain goal on the half hour, as Flynn along with Goodwin, Booth and Jon Worthington, were on show in front of boss Ternant for the first time.
Hamilton appeared to be playing well within themselves, while too much can’t be read into Town’s performance, but it was a delight when Booth fired Town ahead on 50 minutes.
There was a slightly freakish element to his opener – Goodwin picking out Cadamateri on the far side of the area and his shot scuffed off the boot of the Town favourite into the net – sparking “Boothy, Boothy,” chants from the small number of travelling die-hards.
Hamilton then began to assert themselves and equalised when McArthur took advantage of a lapse by Goodwin on the edge of the area to coolly finish on 59 minutes.
And a sublime 22-yard curler by Mensing, on 62 minutes, from the right and with the outside of his right boot, left Glennon rooted and proved the decisive goal.
Ternant then began to tinker with Michael Collins coming on for Flynn and Malvin Kamara and Phil Jevons replacing Butler and Booth respectively, as the side reverted to 4-4-2.
And Kamara soon made a mark with an excellent cross from the right but Cadamateri could not guide the ball down from close range.
Town – Glennon, Clarke, Skarz, Goodwin, Lucketti, Butler (Kamara, 65mins), Flynn (Collins, 62mins), Worthington, Booth (Jevons, 65mins), Cadamateri, Holdsworth. Subs not used: Smithies, Williams, Mirfin, Beckett.