Cheltenham savour shoot-out triumph

Cheltenham Town 1 Hartlepool United 1 After extra time; agg. 2-2; Cheltenham win 5-4 on pens
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The Independent Football

Cheltenham were the victors last night in a dramatic penalty shoot-out to seal a place in the Third Division play-off final – but it was not without controversy.

Ritchie Humphreys was guilty of missing the crucial spot-kick for Hartlepool but his shot appeared to have crossed the line after bouncing down off the crossbar. The referee ended proceedings, however, and it is Steve Cotterill's men who will travel to Cardiff on Monday.

The result was harsh on the visitors, who had dominated for long spells in their third consecutive play-off defeat. The defender Paul Arnison, who came into the Hartlepool line-up in place of Mark Robinson, drilled a low shot under Steve Book, the Cheltenham goalkeeper, in the 16th minute to put Pool ahead. Less than 10 minutes later the Robins were level. A spectacular 25-yard effort into the top corner from Lee Williams gave the Hartlepool keeper Anthony Williams little chance. But neither side could score a second and extra time passed without a goal.

Both sides scored their first spot kick but Paul Stephenson blazed over the crossbar with Hartlepool's second. Mike Duff put the Robins' fourth effort wide of the post, leaving the scores all-square. Then it was down to Humphreys, who had the misfortune of being the villain for the visitors.

Cheltenham Town: Book, Griffin, Duff, Walker, Victory, L Williams (Devaney, 76), Yates, Finnigan, Milton, Alsop, Naylor (Grayson, 76). Substitutes not used: Howarth, Muggleton (gk), Lee.

Hartlepool United: T Williams, Barron, Lee, Westwood, Arnison, Stephenson, Humphreys, Clarke, Smith, Watson, E Williams (Henderson, 78). Substitutes not used: Hollund (gk), Boyd, Robinson, Simms.

Referee: A Hall (Birmingham).