30 September 2022

Keith Curle hails Josh Umerah impact as substitute’s brace earns Hartlepool draw

30 September 2022

New Hartlepool boss Keith Curle admitted substitute Josh Umerah was a real “handful” as he inspired a 2-2 comeback draw at high-flying Mansfield.

The winless visitors, looking to climb out of the bottom two, were on course for a sixth defeat of the season as they trailed 2-0 to second-half goals from George Lapslie and Riley Harbottle.

But, a minute after being introduced off the bench just past the hour, Umerah pounced on a stray Harbottle back-pass to reduce the deficit.

The ex-Wealdstone striker then added his second of the night, and fifth of the campaign, after 89 minutes to draw the teams level.

His brace was still not enough to prevent the visitors from equalling a club record of 20 EFL games without a win – set in 2012 – but it did mean Curle remains unbeaten in the three games since his appointment and he was encouraged by his players’ attitude, application and desire against his old club.

On Umerah’s contribution, the former Manchester City and England defender said: “We know we have got players who can force goals and I thought about my team selection a lot. I knew that Josh would be not what they wanted after an hour.

“He has a physical presence but, if he had been doing that from the beginning, I think they’d have liked that confrontation. After an hour, though, he was a handful and showed a willingness to work up there.

“We know where we are in the league and Mansfield is a difficult place to come so the attitude of the players, to come back from 2-0 down, was massively important and we are going to need that.

“I liked the character and loved the application and desire because, if you keep going, you get your rewards.”

Mansfield boss Nigel Clough was less enamoured with his side’s display, arguing the sixth-placed Stags had tossed away a straightforward opportunity to go on and collect three points following Lapslie and Harbottle’s goals.

“We have thrown two points away and I hope it does not cost us at the end of the season because we won’t be in a better position to win a game than we were in this one,” he said.

“The equaliser can happen but with the first one – at 2-0 up – we were in complete control and the last thing you do is give the opposition a lifeline.

“It happened because people did not do their jobs and that’s it. We know who was at fault for the goal – Christy Pym and Oli Hawkins could both have done better and Riley Harbottle has then given their player the ball.

“It was 30 seconds of very poor play and it came down to one or two individuals.

“We also missed two or three very good chances in the first half and the game should have been put to bed at half-time but we still went on to score two very good goals in the second half and that should have been enough.”

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