The FA Cup's annual third-round search for Davids to fell Goliaths knocked on the door of Hartlepool United's 5ft 4in substitute striker David Foley yesterday. Foley, a 21 year-old from South Shields who has been with Hartlepool since school, responded in the affirmative.
Immediately after his dipping30-yard volley in the 76th minute landed in the top corner of Steve Simonsen's net, Stoke's defenders staged an angry inquest that appeared to centre on Ibrahima Sonko's failure to close down his diminutive opponent. There were no slaps of a Fuller-Griffin variety exchanged this weekend, but this was another bad day for Tony Pulis's team.
Though Pulis made seven changes from the West Ham defeat, Stoke controlled the first half, but Mickey Nelson's rousing header four minutes after the interval sent Stoke on their way to a fourth consecutive loss, one confirmed by Foley's intervention. Pulis may be worried but he was magnanimous. "Whatever you do, don't take anything away from Hartlepool's players," he said.
Given that Hartlepool are managerless, have their most talented player, James Brown, out for the season and last Sunday lost 4-1 here to Crewe Alexandra, optimism beforehand was not boundless and the ground was not full. Danny Wilson's dismissal last month from the manager's office has left Chris Turner in temporary charge – he goes by the title of director of sport usually. He has been here before, and will be remembered for helping save Hartlepool's League status back in 1999.
Turner also won a Wembley final as a player, when Sheffield Wednesday beat Manchester United in the 1991 League Cup. But yesterday topped the lot. "Most definitely," he said. "When the final whistle went it was the best feeling I've ever felt. I've been a winner at Wembley, but I felt so proud of the club and the supporters today."
And of Foley, who replaced the injured Michael Mackay on 33 minutes, Turner said: "When David went on a lot of people in the ground will have been saying, 'Oh dear, he's up against two 6ft 4in centre-halves'. David Foley has had a bit of ribbing about goals but he's got ability and today it's come off for him. The FA Cup throws up unlikely heroes."
Few locals had foreseen this. Foley was the second enforced substitution. Stoke were robust rather than dirty and held a comfortable dominance. When they could, Michael Tonge, Glenn Whelan and Tom Soares got the ball down and passed it.
In the second minute Sonko struck the upright and that set a pattern of visiting territorial control. But the second half was unrecognisable from the first; Pools' players stood up, Stoke's stood down.
After 49 minutes Andrew Davies was deemed to have felled Joel Porter when the foul looked the other way. Pulis mentioned that afterwards, but did not use it as an excuse. There was still a free-kick to be defended but Nelson evaded markers and sneaked between two Stoke shirts to meet Matty Robson's centre and bury a header.
Victoria Park tingled. West Brom-wich had been knocked out of the League Cup here in August but this was better still. When a loose ball fell to Foley it sat up and he let rip, and now the place was electrified. It stayed that way. Hartlepool have been in the fourth round five times in their 100-year history. But never the fifth.
Referee: M Halsey
Man of the match: Nelson
Match rating: 7/10Reuse content