Rotherham United’s second outing in the Central League saw them fall to a last-minute defeat as Hartlepool United ran out 2-1 winners at Billingham Town’s Evolution Arena.
Kuda Muskwe’s powerful header looked to have earned his side a point after Tom Heardman opened the scoring, but Jake Orrell’s strike 30 seconds from the end ensured Pools recorded maximum points in the second string league.
A mixed side containing a number of senior professionals travelled to Billingham Town’s Evolution Arena, with the likes of Joe Newell, Will Vaulks and Richard Wood amongst the names included.
The Millers started brightly in the North East and threatened early on through young striker Jerry Yates who was unfortunate to see his effort loop over Ryan Catterick’s crossbar .
Pools almost took the lead against the run of play when Tom Heardman found himself in behind the opposition defence only to be denied by a superb save from Lewis Price as he ran through one-on-one.
Rotherham’s youngsters continued to shine and winger Darnelle Bailey-King was next to make his presence felt in the Hartlepool half. An electric burst into the box saw him cut the ball back towards an onrushing red shirt, but a vital intervention in the hosts’ defence meant that the Millers had to settle for a corner.
That theme continued when Mason Warren whipped in a tantalising cross from the left which found Kuda Muskwe, but he snatched at his effort from six yards out when he should have rippled the back of the net.
The final chance of the half came for Sam Collins’ side when another cross from the wing caused problems in the Millers’ area and saw Brad Fewster rise highest at the back post to head an effort inches wide of the post.
Half Time | Hartlepool United 0 v 0 Reserves
The Millers remained unchanged at the break and came quickly out of the blocks following the restart. Richard Wood was the player that leapt above a crowd of bodies this time to head an effort at goal which flew over the crossbar.
The deadlock was broken on the hour-mark and it was Hartlepool that found themselves first to register on the scoresheet. There was nothing Price could do after an initial good save to keep out Heardman who followed in to make it 1-0.
However, the Millers did not find themselves behind for long and levelled within 10 minutes of the opener. Anthony Forde’s sumptious delivery from a corner was powered at goal by Muskwe, whose header found the top corner to restore parity in the North East.
The pendulum looked to have swung back in favour of the hosts on 75 minutes when Hartlepool were awarded a penalty. Brad Walker was tasked with despatching the ball from 12 yards but was denied by a splendid save from Price in the Millers’ goal to keep it at 1-1.
Pools looked to have had the final chance of the game when James Martin fired at goal but Price was equal to his effort to ensure the scores remained level in stoppage time.
However, with 30 seconds remaining on the clock Orrell found himself with room to shoot and finally beat Price in the Millers goal to ensure maximum points for the hosts on Tuesday afternoon.
Full Time | Hartlepool United 2 v 1 Reserves
Hartlepool United | Catterick, Richards (Richardson 72), Martin, Green, Wise, Pollock, Smith, Walker, Heardman (Hawkes 60), Fewster (Blackford 60), Orrell.
Unused | Moloney, Fielding.
Millers | Price; Bailey, Wood (Atherton 82), Rose, Warren; Forde (James 70), Vaulks (Murr 63), Newell (Maguire 63), Bailey-King; Muskwe, Yates (Kayode 68).