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Hartlepool boss Graeme Lee salutes 18-year-old match-winner Joe Grey

Soccer – FA Cup – Third Round – Hartlepool United v Stoke City – Victoria Park
(Image credit: Dave Thompson)

Hartlepool boss Graeme Lee hailed super sub Joe Grey after the 18-year-old stepped off the bench to fire Hartlepool into the FA Cup fourth round for the first time since 2009.

Moments after replacing Mark Cullen on the hour mark, Grey swept home the winner to seal the League Two side’s come-from-behind win over Championship Blackpool.

It was Grey’s second goal in senior football and Lee revealed: “Joe was very close to starting the game but I went with experience rather than physicality.

“I told him he will come on and stretch it. I told him to go and get the winner, but I didn’t expect him to do it in the first couple of minutes.”

Grey’s goal capped a stirring fightback after the hosts had struggled to contain their Championship opponents in the first period after Keshi Anderson’s eighth-minute opener.

David Ferguson’s leveller three minutes into the second half turned the game on its head and Lee, who was delighted to see his side build on their midweek Papa John’s Trophy win over Bolton, is now dreaming of a fourth-round clash with his hometown club Middlesbrough.

“It feels fantastic, we are all on a high this week,” added Lee. “Middlesbrough is my hometown club and I’d love the challenge of going up against them. There are massive clubs in this competition and we will see what happens.”

Lee said his side’s recovery was all the more pleasing given his disappointment with some aspects of their first-half display, which could have left them well adrift had the visitors made the most of their chances.

“I didn’t think energy levels were right,” he added. “I had to give them a gee-up at half-time, because I could see we weren’t where we should have been. I wanted more belief and bravery to get back into the game.”

Blackpool boss Neil Critchley admitted his side got what they deserved after failing to make the most of their first half chances.

Gary Madine and Shayne Lavery were among those who missed clear-cut chances to extend the Seasiders’ advantage in the opening half-hour.

Critchley said: “We’ve had a real taste of what FA Cup football is about today and unfortunately we are on the receiving end of the low end of the FA Cup.

“At 1-0 we were in control of the game and we missed some big opportunities to go 2-0 and 3-0 up.

“What’s cost us is what happened at the start of the second half. We had a 15 to 20-minute period where we weren’t at it – we were totally unrecognisable from a Blackpool team that I’ve been in charge of.

“Unfortunately, these days can happen, we’re not the first and we won’t be the last. We had our success last year against West Brom and today we are on the receiving end of it. It’s not a nice feeling I can assure you.”

Critchley revealed both Anderson and James Husband suffered hamstring injuries which required them to be brought off in the first half.

“Keshi is a big blow for us, he’s been a big player for us and to see him limp off holding his hamstring is not a nice sight,” added Critchley.

“Hubby also felt his hamstring but we’re hopeful that one is not as bad. It did disrupt us a little bit, having to bring off two players who are mainstays for us.”

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