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Max-imum points for Blues as supersub strikes
Hartlepool United 1, Wycombe Wanderers 2.
MAX Kretzschmar scored his first goals in professional football as he came off the bench to bag a brace against Hartlepool.
The young midfielder netted twice as he injected a spark of creativity that had been missing from Wanderers’ first half play, as they reached the interval lucky not to be behind.
Blues had had to survive a first half battering from the struggling north eastern outfit, before Kretzschmar’s introduction turned the tide in a classic away win.
And a James Poole header in stoppage time ensured some nervy moments amongst the 120 travelling fans, but by then it was too late for them to make a comeback.
Wanderers, who were missing star man Dean Morgan through illness, improved markedly after the break as they made it a hat trick of wins in league and cup thanks to Kretzschmar breathing new life into their display.
They had an early chance as the new-look front pairing of Steven Craig and Matt McClure combined, with last season’s top scorer having an effort blocked and the rebound bouncing up to the Scotsman, who miscued his shot and it bobbled through to keeper Scott Flinders.
But from there Pools went on to dominate the rest of the first half and only some wayward finishing and heroic defending from Blues ensured they failed to make the breakthrough.
Without a league goal all season Pools looked desperately short of confidence going forward despite unwavering support from the home fans – and a 5-0 midweek cup win – as Simon Walton headed wide from a corner.
The midfielder, on as an early substitute for the injured Bradley Walker, came even closer to breaking Hartlepool’s duck as slick passing turned the Wycombe defence inside out, but from eight yards Walton couldn’t get enough purchase on his shot and found Leon Johnson in the way to clear off the line.
Next to fail in front of goal was Jonathan Franks, who blazed high and wide after good work down the left from Jack Compton, and another close range shot was frantically blocked as the Wanderers goal started to live something of a charmed life.
Blues knew their luck was in when a close range shot from Andy Monkhouse was somehow blocked on the line by Nick Arnold, with the referee waving play on and ignoring Pools players’ desperate pleas that the ball had crossed the whitewash.
Wanderers, without the creative spark normally provided by the absent Morgan, rarely threatened and the closest they came to opening the scoring in the first half was when Craig just failed to touch home an inviting cross from Sam Wood after a swift breakaway.
Looking for a burst of creativity, Blues boss introduced Kretzschmar from the bench for the second half, with the midfielder replacing Arnold.
They made a livelier start to the second period as skipper Stuart Lewis had a shot deflected wide after the ball dropped to him in the box, with McClure nodding the resulting corner over the crossbar.
Fresh from scoring twice from set plays against Southend, Blues took the lead after forcing another corner. Pools struggled to clear their lines and Walton ducked out of a tackle as Lewis teed up Kretzschmar to fire home a gorgeous low shot from the edge of the area.
Heads dropped amongst the home side and Wanderers, particularly Sam Wood, were able to break through the defence on a more regular basis. From one cross the hardworking Craig rolled the ball into the path of Billy Knott, but the Sunderland loanee’s shot had the sting taken out of it by a deflection and it rolled through to Flinders.
Blues were now on top and a second goal almost came their way as Knott skilfully juggled his way past a defender before offloading to Lewis, whose fierce drive was beaten away by the diving Flinders.
But they didn’t have long to wait for another and it was Kretzschmar again who got it, being played clean through the defence by Wood and rolling the ball home with the confidence and knowhow of a seasoned striker.
Pools used all their available substitutes in an effort to get a foothold in the game, but Matt Ingram wasn’t called upon to make a serious save despite the ball spending an unnerving amount of time pinging around his penalty area.
Matty Dolan curled a late free kick wide, veteran striker Steve Howard glanced a header goalward that Ingram clutched easily and Monkhouse scuffed an effort across the face of goal, but at the other end Knott was also off target.
In stoppage time substitute Poole headed home a consolation - his side's first League Two goal of the season - but by then Blues had already sewn things up.
Wanderers: Ingram, McCoy, Johnson, Doherty, Hause, Arnold (sub Kretzschmar), Lewis, Knott, Wood, Craig (sub Stewart), McClure (sub Kuffour). Substitutes not used: Harrison, Spring, Fletcher.
Attendance: 3,640 (120 from Wycombe)
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