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Highlights: Maidenhead United's unbeaten run comes to an end after defeat to Hartlepool United

Jake Cassidy. Photo: Darren Woolley. 

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Maidenhead United 0, Hartlepool United 1

Niko Muir bagged the winner as Hartlepool United picked up their first victory of the season at York Road, ending Maidenhead United’s unbeaten start in the process.

Muir, a half-time substitute for the injured Nicke Kabamba, grabbed the only goal, turning home the loose ball after Taye Ashby-Hammond saved well from Ryan Donaldson in the 55th minute.

(Highlights uploaded to YouTube by FC Video)

Craig Hignett’s men were much improved from their defeats to Sutton United and Halifax Town, dominating possession, territory and chances from the off.

They should really have taken a lead into the half-time break, but Ryan Donaldson headed Mark Kitching’s cross wide in the 43rd minute when it looked easier to score.

Pools set the tone from the opening minutes, with Michael Raynes heading over the bar under pressure early on. The visitors also had a shout for a penalty when Nicky Featherstone’s cross struck Joseph Ellul on the arm, but referee James Durkin deemed it accidental.

The Magpies created little of note, but for a corner from Josh Smile that Ben Killip pushed away at full stretch on 15 minutes, a rasping drive from former Pools’ player Jake Cassidy that flashed  over the bar and a rare attempt from Rene Steer which brushed the crossbar.

For all of their possession Hartlepool had little to show for it. Gimi Toure, undoubtedly Pools’ best player, spooned one good chance over after 25 minutes before Donaldson fluffed his lines with the half’s best chance.  

The warning signs were there for the Magpies after the break, when Muir slid a shot agonisingly wide of the upright and Toure blazed over after cutting in from the right.

And, when the goal arrived, Maidenhead were architects of their own downfall.

Upward gave up possession in midfield enabling Donaldson to wriggle free on the left side of the area. His low effort lacked the power to beat Ashby-Hammond but the on-loan keeper could only push it out to the lurking Muir, who rolled the ball home.

Alan Devonshire threw on Bernard Mensah, James Akintunde and Josh Kelly for the final 20 minutes, but Kelly was unable to put away the one really good chance that fell United’s way.

With five minutes to play Smile created space on the left and picked out the young striker with a cross, but his header flew straight into the grateful arms of Killip – either side and the Magpies would have been level.

In injury-time Akintunde slipped on the ball after being played in on the left side by Rene Steer and his misfortune, or lack of composure, summed up United’s day.

Pools saw out five minutes of injury-time in relative comfort. Fittingly Toure was the last player to touch the ball for the visitors, shielding it in the corner flag and running down the clock.

Magpies assistant manager Ryan Peters told Grace Scott: “It wasn’t one of our finest (performances). We weren’t good from the start. It took us to about 60 minutes in the second half to really get going and by that stage we were chasing the game.

“Today was just a bad performance and we’ll be looking to bounce back on Tuesday. We knew the first six games were going to be tough but we’ll now look to make sure the boys recover well and we’ll look to go there and try to get a result.”

Hignett reflected: “I thought we defended really well and bar the one chance, the header (for Kelly) we were really comfortable in it.

“We played really well and kept the ball really well. If we can get the ball down and play we’ll cause any team problems. I thought Gimi played really well as an outlet and Niko worked really hard when he came on.

“All in all it’s a really good performance and a really pleasing three points.

“Ryan (Donaldson) had a great chance in the first half, which he was disappointed with, but apart from that he didn’t really have a save to make. We mentioned that at half-time, but fortunately the lads started the second half really well, got themselves in front and then managed the game a bit better than we have in previous seasons. It shows we’re improving but it also shows we’ve got a bit more to do. We’re a good side, we can go anywhere and give anyone a good game.”

Maidenhead United: Ashby-Hammond, Clerima, Steer, Ellul, Davies (Mensah 60’), Cassidy (Kelly 83’), Whitehall (Akintunde 64’), Twumasi, Upward, Massey, Smile. Subs not used: Fenelon, Keetch. 

Attendance: 1,330. 

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