THE last time Cherries claimed victory at Hartlepool, Eddie Howe was in the youth team at Dean Court and most of his players were either in nappies or at infants’ school.
Victoria Park has not been a happy hunting ground for Cherries since Efan Ekoku netted the only goal of the game to earn them a 1-0 win in February 1993.
However, the 20-year wait finally came to an end as Howe’s men registered a deserved success against bottom-placed Pools to climb back into the top six in League One.
The win, coupled with an outstanding team performance, was a fitting reward for the hardy 68 Cherries supporters who had endured a nightmare trek to the north east.
Beaten for the first time under Howe at Walsall on Saturday, it was also testament to the character of the players as they dug deep and showed their class to bounce back in style.
“The big thing was that we responded,” said Howe. “I said to the players before the game that good teams don’t lose two in a row. As disappointed as I was on Saturday, I was pleased tonight. The lads were brave on the ball, they passed it superbly and we had some great chances.”
Shwan Jalal, Dan Seaborne, Richard Hughes, Marc Pugh and Josh McQuoid all started for Cherries as Howe shook things up following the reverse at Walsall.
The headline team news saw goalkeeper Jalal drafted in for his first league start since September, the stopper replacing David James who was omitted from the squad.
New loan signing Seaborne was handed his debut for the club, the defender coming in for Steve Cook who was not involved due to his ongoing court case.
There was no place for Wes Thomas, who was also left behind.
Harry Arter had an early chance to test Pools goalkeeper Scott Flinders, only to fire his free-kick from a central position straight at the defensive wall.
Lewis Grabban squandered a glorious opportunity to draw first blood when he skied his shot over the top following a well-worked corner after six minutes.
And as the visitors continued to make all the early running, defender Tommy Elphick saw his header flash over the crossbar following a Charlie Daniels corner.
Middlesbrough loan striker Charlie Wyke carved out Pools’ first shooting chance after 12 minutes, his wayward strike failing to trouble Jalal.
Jalal had to be alert to prevent Jonathan Franks from opening the scoring in the 20th minute, the goalkeeper standing tall to beat away the striker’s effort after he had gone clear.
Cherries, however, were rewarded for their enterprising start when McQuoid headed home Eunan O’Kane’s inch-perfect cross after 28 minutes, his fifth goal of season.
Pools should have levelled soon after though when Ritchie Humphreys diverted a close-range header wide of the target with the goal gaping in front of him.
Apart from that one real scare, Cherries dominated the first half and perhaps should have reached the break leading by more than the solitary goal.
However, disaster struck for Cherries when Pools drew level courtesy of a goal from substitute Jack Baldwin five minutes into the second half.
The teenager profited after Jalal had misjudged a wind-assisted free-kick from Evan Horwood, the ball sailing over his head and coming back off the crossbar.
And the 19-year-old, recruited from non-league Faversham Town, reacted quickest and followed in to net the loose ball.
Cherries regained the lead from the spot, Grabban sending Flinders the wrong way after O’Kane’s mazy run had been ended by Sam Collins’s crude challenge.
And Arter drew a fine save from Flinders, the Pools goalkeeper diving acrobatically to his left to parry from the midfielder after he had raced into the 18-yard box from the halfway line.
Jalal atoned for his earlier error and preserved Cherries’ lead by pulling off a smart reaction save after Steve Howard had let fly from 10 yards.
Cherries though were worthy winners with O’Kane’s midfield masterclass earning him the man-of-the-match plaudits.
Cherries: Jalal 7.5, Francis 7.5, Seaborne 7.5, Elphick 7.5, Daniels 7.5 (Fogden, 90), Hughes 8, McQuoid 8, Arter 8, O’Kane 9, Pugh 7.5, Grabban 7.5 (Tubbs, 86).
Unused subs: Pitman, Fletcher, McDermott, Partington, Allsop (g/k).
Pools: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Walton (Poole, 67), Sweeney (Baldwin, 5), Humphreys, Franks, Howard (Monkhouse, 80), Wyke.
Unused subs: Luscombe, Holden, James, McHugh (g/k).
Attendance: 2,502 (including 68 visiting supporters).
Referee: Mick Russell (Hertfordshire).