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Almost a Third of the Season Gone

BILLY'S CONTRACT takes stock


Almost a third of the way through the season - didn't that just fly by - and what do we know? 

Firstly, both on and off the pitch Pools find themselves in a far better place than this time last year. An improved squad of players, more heart, entertaining football, various new sponsors and at the time of typing this, a decent points tally seeing Pools in eight spot - something that Craig Harrison could only dream of at the corresponding stage of last season. That said, a number of fans including myself feel that we should be doing better - a lot better.

 In 2016/17 season Pools should have been converting losses into draws and in the current campaign we should be converting draws into wins especially at home. Currently, of four draws at home, three have come from winning positions and all were when defending a precarious one goal lead. Even the the two wins against Chesterfield and Maidstone were not comfortable - both games seeing Pools having to defend deep and start running the clock down 15 minutes before the final whistle to hang onto a one goal advantage.

It has got to be said that our home form is not exactly setting the world alight or setting the pulses racing in terms of entertainment. Has Matthew Bates got it right or is he following his fellow pupils Colin Cooper, Craig Hignett and Craig Harrison from the Middlesbrough FC school of football whose mantra is "Why push on for three points when we can hang on for one?" Basically our philosophy appears to be to avoid losing ...even if it means not winning.

My other concern about Bates is that he, again like Harrison Cooper and Hignett, does not seem to have a plan B to draw upon. We are geared up in a 3-5-2 formation which by and large works well away from home but with limited success at the Vic. Aldershot took advantage of this in the second half and pummelled our left flank. Salford did much the same with their wing men exploiting our right side resulting in Conor Newton, filling in as a wing back, being subbed when perhaps changing the formation would have been more tactically astute.

As mentioned many times, our main tactic seems to be either from kick off or from Scott Loach to lump the ball out wide in the hope that Mark Kitchen will get a head to it for a knock down for Luke James to run on to. The problem with this tactic is that more often or not the ball goes over his head and out for a throw or that his marker wins the ball. On the odd occasion that Kitchen does win a header he is too deep and by the time James has the ball at his feet he is surrounded by a couple or three defenders.

"A major worry is what effect a possible long-term injury or suspension to Liam Noble would have on the team."
The other tactic seems to be for the defence/keeper to launch the ball up to Muir and James to chase and run on to but owing to their lack of height the percentage game shows that they are going to lose more than they are going to win. I have yet to see a goal scored from this strategy. Muir and James are too similar and having them both play out wide does not make sense as their goal tallies confirm. The way the front two are playing possibly allows goal scoring opportunities for our midfield players but not vice versa.

Against Halifax, excluding his penalty, I noted that Liam Noble had six shots at goal. To date our midfield has ten goals to its credit but this raises the question have our forwards become midfield players and our midfield players forwards?

Another area which I am unable to grasp is the substitutions that Bates makes. He replaces like for like players and not game changers. It sounds like I am having a pop at Matty Bates but I desperately want him to succeed. The fact that he leaves one man up front when Pools are defending a corner is a massive plus and takes pressure off the defence. I am hoping that he is not a one-trick pony and has other options up his sleeve.

Obviously Bates can only do so much with what resources are available to him. Muir and James, as good as they in the system we play, will not get enough goals to secure promotion. Everyone knows that we need an out-and-out centre forward for Muir and/or James to work off. Many criticised the club for loaning out Jake Cassidy but in truth I don't think he was the answer for that role.

A major worry is what effect a possible long-term injury or suspension to Liam Noble would have on the team. He is the nearest thing we have to a Mark Tinkler, who totally dominates the midfield and is always wanting the ball. His loss would leave us floundering unless of course Luke Williams overcomes his injury problems and takes over the baton.  Here's hoping that Luke Williams is not a direct replacement for Luke George in terms of appearances on the treatment table.


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Matt Finish - Too Dull!

WAGGA MOON



While some supporters may be happy with eighth place in the table after all our recent troubles, in all honesty we should be doing a lot better. With a full-time squad, parachute payment and some talented players to pick from, we should be in the top two all season long. 

I said before the start of the season I had my doubts about Matthew Bates but I have no doubts now. He is not up to the job and will never get us promotion. He is a one-trick pony, tactically inept, no Plan B, and with the same defensive outlook as his predecessor. In short, he hasn't got a scooby.

The quality of football is abysmal with the hoofball and if we get a goal try and hang on to it at all costs. The trouble is we can't and the number of points we have thrown away at the death is beyond a joke. And it is not good teams that are doing it. The Braintrees, Ebbsfleets, Harrogates and Aldershots are coming to the Vic and are happy to go away with a point. We have two strikers who don't play as strikers and are more like wingers with no one in the middle.

One striker we brought in, Luke James, has one goal to his name and doesn't remotely look like adding to it. He may buzz around like a blue-arsed fly but there is no end product. But this is no surprise as we all knew his scoring record before we signed him. One of our four strikers, Jake Cassidy, was shipped out on loan with no replacement brought in for him. Of course the first match he is gone Niko Muir gets injured after 18 minutes and has to go off and then is made to play the following game against Aldershot when clearly unfit and didn't last the full game. That he scored a nice goal is credit to the player who will be a good footballer if played as a central striker with a big target man alongside him. Someone like Shola Ameobi who is looking for a club and would do as great job for us till the end of the season. Either that or spring Adam Johnson from jail and get him up front. But the negative way Bates has up set up means that at the moment our goals will be few and far between.

"the negative way Bates has up set up means that at the moment our goals will be few and far between"
Indeed our midfield three included our perennial failures Woods and Xavi and no place for new signing Paddy McLoughlin. And we have an attacking midfielder Ryan Donaldson out of position at right wing back. Even Liam Noble is starting to struggle playing with those two bozos. And Bates comes up with the masterstroke of signing Luke Williams on August 23. No sign of him making his debut just yet and not before November if reports are correct. You would have thought Bates could spot a "sicknote" when he saw one as he was rarely on the pitch himself when he was "playing".

With the league starting to take shape now, it looks like Leyton Orient, Salford and Wrexham are going to be the pace-setters and that none of them have superior squads to Pools. But the way we are set up we are never going to score enough goals to match them. Especially when Bates is unable to teach the team to close a game out if we have not got enough goals on the board.

If I were Mr Singh I would be keeping a close eye on Bristol and the Memorial Stadium in particular. Word has it that Mr Darrell Clarke may soon be losing his job at Rovers and he would be ideal for us. A genuine Poolie and no Borer connection.
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Waxing Lyrical!

GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY


Well, why not? The season so far has brought out optimism and there is a belief that we can turn things around. 

I had a sense of foreboding before the game against Salford City and events turned out to be a bad night for Pools. There isn’t much you can do when a club is striving to buy itself into League Two. At least that defeat, plus the draw against Aldershot, meant that Matthew Bates wouldn’t get Manager of the Month. Give that to Salford City. You never know, it might bugger things up for them.
"high balls were lumped up to Luke James and he wasn’t going to out jump their defence."

The game against Aldershot was frustrating to say the least. We took the lead through a wonder goal from Niko Muir (what a find!) but for a lot of the game high balls were lumped up to Luke James and he wasn’t going to out jump their defence. Luke James works his socks off and you can’t fault him for effort but he needs to be coming through the middle to take advantage of his undoubted ability.

And so to some lyrics. As Pools progressed up the table, the following came to mind:
Such a feelin’s coming over me
There’s wonder in most everything I see
Not a cloud in the sky
got the sun in my eyes
And I won’t be surprised it’s a dream.

(On Top of the World, with acknowledgements to The Carpenters)

After Salford City, and Aldershot, I had to go back to the drawing board and came up with the old Scottish ballad:
Keep right on to the end of the road
Keep right on to the end
Tho’ the way be long, let your heart be strong
Keep right on round the bend
Tho’ you’re tired and weary still journey on
Till you come to your happy abode (League Two)

(Keep Right on to the end of the Road – made famous by Harry Lauder)

Speaking of Salford City, I like to have a lie in and listen to Sportsweek on Radio Five Live. Presented by Gary Richardson, the programme covers a wide range of sports and a couple of weeks ago Richardson interviewed the Salford manager, Graham Alexander, and offered the view that Salford would face strong competition from a number of teams, including Pools. Yikes, national recognition. I nearly fell out of bed.

Got some tickets for the Kevin Keegan ‘do’on 16th November. I reckon it should be a good night and KK should have a lot to say on Mike Ashley. That’s what happens when you get taken over by southern interlopers as we only know too well!

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Funny Old Game




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It's the Future

BILLY'S CONTRACT looks ahead


I am more a Hi Fi man rather than a Sci Fi one but I have often wondered what life would be like in the future. Unlike HG Wells' Time Traveller I have not the resources or the nous to construct a time machine but after four pints of draught Brewdog Punk IPA I must admit it was the next best thing. I certainly was floating and I don't think that was due to lack of gravity. 

I arrived in Hartlepool in the year 2040. I noticed that the roof of the Wesley Chapel has still not been replaced and Longscar Hall has yet to been demolished. On the plus side Church Street has been redeveloped yet again. The Town Moor is a moor no more as it houses a water theme park and a zoo, as well as the campus of the University of Hartlepool.

For old time's sake I thought I would pop down the High Street to Verrills to treat myself to fish fritter and chips but it was closed. Good to see that some things haven't changed.

In order to familarise myself with what was in the news I picked up a copy of The Hartlepool Mail. Fortunately I had the necessary £25 in loose change, and read the following articles:

POLITICS - Brexit negotiations are at an impasse. The Irish border question was resolved over twenty years ago, however the final stumbling block appears to be the government's demand for financial recompense for the bomb damage caused to the main stand at the Victoria Ground by a Zeppelin in 1916. Angela Merkel, who now resembles Davros in both looks and mobility said that this can only be granted if Britain in turn agrees to reinstate the name Das Germanic Ocean over that of the North Sea.

The French on the other hand are demanding the repatriation of the remains of the monkey which was hung during the Napoleonic wars, in order that can be accorded a state funeral with full military honours. The leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, the venerable Sir Jeffery Stelling MBE DSO and Bar says that we are not going to be roped into that one. The EU now consists of Germany, France, the Belgian Congo. the Sudetenland, Narnia and the north west tip of Iceland.
"Pools have been drawn in the third round of the Frank's Factory Flooring Cup against last year's Champions League winners, Stow-on-the-Wold"

Security has been stepped up at Hartlepool's newly-opened Seydlitz international offshore airport* while Prime Minister Jacob Rees Mogg and members of the cabinet, along with the world's paparazzi, are attending the annual Conservative Party conference at the Borough Hall.

The Prime Minister swept to power on the back of a promised referendum which saw both Hartlepool and West Hartlepool gain independence from each other. Some people claim that they were lied to over the vote, as to date there is no sign of the four promised blue AEC double decker buses on the road to West and back. In a similar referendum over in Teeside (they dropped one 'S'!), Stockton officially became part of Middlesbrough but many people had believed that this was already the case and that there was no requirement to have such a vote. Hartlepool itself has been welcomed back to County Durham with open arms and much jubilation.

In his election manifesto Mr Rees Mogg stated that he was going to repeal the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) as he felt Health and Safety regulations had gone too far. Any requirements for the use of personal protective equipment and protective clothing would be abolished and in their place we would see the return of top hats, tails, white gloves, silk scarves, spats and monocles. Mr Rees Mogg claimed that it is not only about protecting the British worker, as looking debonair in the work place was equally important. He added 'If it was good enough for Isambard Kingdom Brunel it is good enough for the rest of us'.

In other news, Diane Abbott has been deselected as MP for Pity Me and Queen Nicola the First of Scotland has attended a fact-finding mission in Station Town with a view to Scotland rejoining the Union and becoming part of the United Kingdom again. She has been told to go forth and multiply.

BUSINESS - The Hartlepool firm Fettle Umate, builders of the two cantilever stands which increased the capacity of Victoria Park to 30,000, has won the contract to replace the head of the Statue of Liberty with one of Donald Trump in commemoration of his services to humanity. This project has been financed by Kim Jong Un, the leader of Korea.

FOOTBALL - Luke Williams' expected league debut has been put back a further two weeks owing to an ingrowing toenail. Hartlepool United, to quote U2, "Still haven't found what they're looking for" - a centre forward.

Pools have been drawn in the third round of the Frank's Factory Flooring Cup against last year's Champions League winners, Stow-on-the-Wold. Due to the continued demise of the once proud Manchester United, the League Two side have agreed to ground share with Salford City.

England's ladies unluckily lost to Brazil after missing a 91st minute penalty. The Brazilian manager Rayza said it was indeed a close shave.

Protesters outside Wembley Stadium have handed in a petition to the FA demanding that unisex football teams should be introduced. One banner read 'Football: it is all about men.' They stated that tennis and badminton allowed mixed doubles/unisex sides so why not football?

* The airport opening had been delayed due to the unfortunate test landing incident involving a jumbo jet and a wind turbine.

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When Was This?

This report is from the Hartlepool Mail of many years ago and was sent in as a memory test. Can you guess the month and year without looking it up? Answer on the Any Other Business page.


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Yorkshire v Lancashire

JANE AUSTEN'S ALLEGRO visits Roses Country


YORKSHIRE
Apart from the first half performance against Halifax, when Pools left the Shayman chasing shadows, the highlight of the day was the pre-match visit to Piece Hall, slap-bang in the middle of the town. 

The name itself is deceiving as it is not actually a hall. If this building was in the likes of Seville, Vienna or Florence, everyone would be raving about it. I genned up on it beforehand and so set off early. I spent an hour here and even that was not enough.

Piece Hall


I always thought Halifax to be a bit of a dump like Middlesbrough but with bells and whistles on. In fairness I had only been here once previously for a televised (cup?) match. We had travelled down on a coach and as it was winter it was dark when we got here and dark when we left so nothing was seen of the town.

Besides Piece Hall there was The Minister (which we discovered had been broken into the night before!), Eureka Children's Museum as well as the magnificent Town Hall and Indoor Market. There are lots of old buildings made from Yorkshire stone, most still covered in soot and grime from the town's many mills, some of which are still standing. The only thing spoiling the magic of this little gem is the numerous electricity pylons on the hillsides which dominate the area.
The only thing that remains of the church is the spire which is now incorporated into Piece Hall as part of the library.


Now to the game - the only thing that put a damper on the match was how Pools performed against nine men. One would have thought, looking at the goal Halifax scored, that it was Pools who were two men short.

Halifax is deffo worth a run out, match or no match.
(Halifax is the official sponsor of Monkey Business, hence this generous review.[since when? - Ed.])

LANCASHIRE
A few days later we were on the coach to Salford. The main topic of conversation and concern was the braking ability of the vehicle. Brakes were applied rather rapidly for some reason near Blackford's Garden Centre and the coach finally stopped a few hundred years past Sapper's Corner. 

Funny old place Salford. It is hard to know where Salford starts and Manchester begins, with Bury tagged on, so that means Rochdale and Oldham are somewhere very nearby. Basically they might as well rename all these towns Manchester. In fact the area is actually called Greater Manchester. I much prefer Lancashire myself.

The ground has improved beyond all recognition since Pools last played there. They now have the same style of stand all the way around the ground. At best it is neat and functional but not something Prince Charles would be praising for its aesthetic beauty. Including the terracing it is totally made from steel, much like a giant Meccano set and I dare say, much like a Meccano set, it could be easily taken apart with a few spanners and moved elsewhere if required, particularly as it sits in the middle of a well to do suburban area.
"One group of Poolies got in a cab and asked to be taken to the match - and ended up at Old Trafford!"

I heard a great tale after the match and I do hope it is true. It was suggested that if any fans wanted a pint, the coach would drop them off at such and such a pub. Even at one and a half miles away it was the nearest drinking establishment to the ground. The plan was to have a few sherbets and grab a taxi to get to the Peninsula Stadium. It turns out that some taxis never arrived and others were late. One group of Poolies got in a cab and asked to be taken to the match - and ended up at Old Trafford! (United were at home to Derby.) I don't know who was more shocked - the Poolies or the cab driver who had to take them back to Salford.

The match itself was even stevens until Salford scored - then an innings collapse. The second goal was a repeat of Halifax's. Pools offered no threat up front and I cannot remember their keeper having to make a save throughout the match as we were too busy passing side-to-side and back to Scotty Loach. Almost time wasting.

Never mind, the following Saturday there was always the game against Aldershot to make amends...

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Funny Old Game


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Numbers Game

Match report by BILL THE BIRO



Solihull Moors 0 Pools 1 (National League)
Saturday 08 September 2018
Damson Park



For the second consecutive Saturday I went to an away match, this time just up the road, so it was an easy trip to plan. Set off at 1pm, pick up two mates and be in the Damson Park bar at 2pm.

That was the plan but I didn't allow for horseracing at our local track. I've twice been caught out when, on my way to Pools matches at MK Dons, I lost an hour due to the Warwick races traffic, but you don't expect that when just picking up your mates in your own little town. Anyway, judicious use of local knowledge and satnav got us into the bar before 2:30 - and reminded us of the equally long wait we'd had at the bar last year.

We bumped into several of the Midlands Poolies we might have expected to see before decamping to the shelter of the away end since the rain decided to make itself felt just as the match was about to start.

Pools, with McLaughlin in for Woods, were up against a somewhat larger side, who soon showed why they were up with Pools in the league table. They were alert and quick on the break and Pools couldn't make much headway against them, although neither side really caused the keepers any trouble in the first half.

"Pools did enough to win without showing the sort of quality their league position might suggest"

The big incident of the half, on 20 minutes was the sending off of the Moors' captain, although we couldn't really see what had happened on the other touchline through the murky rain. However, as often seems to be the case, that didn't seem to make much difference to the balance of play.

Shortly afterwards it was noticeable that Liam Noble's shirt was showing signs of distress. The "O" from his surname had disappeared and his squad number was peeling off. Could this be anything to do with the rift between Pools and their kit supplier?

The half-time exodus to the bar was thwarted ...because despite it being a match day, the bar was being used for a wedding!

In the second half Pools gained domination, perhaps due to their one-man advantage, the loss to injury of one of Solihull's best players or the change by Pools to playing it along the ground, and Pools had lots of chances before Noble got the winner.

There was a 5-minute spell when Pools gave up moving and just tapped the ball around in the middle, which was boring to watch but no doubt served some purpose. Pools saw out the match comfortably to rise a place in the league table, with only one example of into-the-corner timewasting being required.

Near the end we were all amazed to see Luke James fall over yet be given a free kick. And even more amazed when Solihull's alleged perpetrator got a yellow card for not touching him.

Much as the previous week at Havant, Pools did enough to win without showing the sort of quality their league position might suggest, but who's complaining?


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Couldn't Break Them Down

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY



Pools 1 Eastleigh 1 (National League)
Saturday 15 September 2018
Victoria Park



Hoping to extend the run Bates turned out the same team again with Woods once again on the bench. 

We won the toss and played up the bank for the first half towards the fifteen travelling Eastleigh fans. The estimates before the subsequent announcement proved the point that the people I stand with have no idea what is going on down the other end of the pitch; the Ditchburn Poolie was the closest with his count of twenty-one, but it later transpired he was counting a carrier bag flapping around the terrace.

As early as the eighth minute the visitors gave us a warning and could have taken a lead with one attacker drifting late into the box and rising unchallenged to head the ball down and Scott Loach made a magnificent dive low to his left to push the ball away.

Pools settled and some of the best football we have seen for a long time was on show. It has to be said this will be the first report where the ref will actually get a plus point, but blotted his copybook late in the second half when Luke should have had a penalty from the run he made into the box. We had carved out a brilliant chance for Noble to strike but his shot was saved by the ageing ex-Gunners striker Stack. The wily old keeper applied all the tricks throughout the game ,especially in the second half when they were running down the clock.

Minutes later Noble tested the keeper again after some great football between McLaughlin and Kitchen but the keeper palmed Noble's shot over the bar. I was in the process of winding back my camera to show the lads this save when I looked up to see Donaldson set up Muir who fired Pools into a well-deserved lead. I missed the shot.

We played some good football but could not break down another very physical side. Donaldson pulled up after having a brilliant half and looks as if he has a hamstring problem so I hope he is back soon as our attack seemed to stall once he went off.
"We played some good football but could not break down another very physical side."

At half time there was rumour of an altercation in the tunnel with a Pools player being  poked in the eye and an attempt to head-butt him by the visitors’ keeper. At the final whistle there was a commotion around the dug outs by both sets of players and sundry others. Noble was being led away but was attempting to get back to the keeper who was also being restrained [Have a look on the video on the Pools Supporters' website.]

The chap next to me, a stranger, said by the looks of it you have got a 'homer' this time. I said that if so then he makes up for all the shiners we have had already this season. On the first half showing he could have been a homer as he did book one of their players but one was not enough after some persistent breaches of the rules.

In the second half once again Pools seemed to lack that final threat to kill off the game. Loach again was called on to make another magnificent save at the start of the half. Kitching went close skimming the bar with a beautiful cross-come-shot and he was winning headers for fun, but the grappling visitors carried on their spoiling tactics.

The full back Jones was allowed to run through the heart of our defence from his own box and no one was able to stop him, which led to their goal. Both teams were making mistakes and the game became a bit more ragged as both sides used the long ball, which only benefitted the tall visitors who worked hard to save a point.

Kitching had a great chance of a winner late in the game but his effort under pressure was wide of the mark. The Man-of-the-Match accolade went to Noble but any one of six could have taken the honour. It was mentioned by those wiser than me that we need a big striker to help get the upper hand in these games against what looks like inferior opposition at times.

Cassidy looks to be out of favour but Luke needs some help.

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Something to Sing About

Match report by MIRFIELD POOLIE



FC Halifax Town 1 Pools 2 (National League)
Saturday 22 September 2018
The Shay


Several weeks ago, when a friend suggested we go to the Pools match at Halifax (as a Poolie in exile, I now live in West Yorkshire) I had mixed thoughts – yes to want to go, but as we’d gone last year and apart from a short purple patch, Pools were poor, some of the fans were voicing aggressively against Harrison, we lost; the whole experience did not evoke pleasant memories. 

However, this long-time Pools supporter that I am accepted the invitation and am I pleased I did. Now I know we played nearly the whole of the second half against 9 men, but even before that, this was a Pools team playing a quality of football I haven’t seen for some time – long may it continue.

For those who haven’t been to the Shay stadium – Halifax’s ground – it’s (still) just off the main road on the way into town from the M62 side. An extra main stand was open solely for away fans from what we had last year; the car park suggested was an excellent choice. Drinks van and facilities reminded us of years gone by.

Pools fans never stopped singing or cheering the whole match through; the players must have been aware of the wall of sound; it was as though we were the home team and that’s how Pools played. From the players’ warm up in front of us supporters, through the match, Noble geeing up the support especially after his penalty conversion and after a superb Featherstone goal, to the applause from players and management at the end, you’d think we were still winning in May not it just being September – what a difference 7 months can make.
"Pools fans never stopped singing or cheering the whole match through"

So to the match, we played really well from the start – who thought Noble’s shot was as close as to hit the bar? We could and should have been on the score sheet so much earlier. It was lovely to see the passing football. I was very impressed with Kioso in defence and attack, seemingly spurred on by our supporters singing his name; no wonder he was targeted and earned a penalty just after half time.

Halifax frustrations resulted in fouls, bookings and sendings off. Noble’s penalty conversion was well celebrated by us all, geed on by Noble as was Featherstone’s unstoppable goal. However, 9-man Halifax, after being subdued following the second goal, broke away to score and were re-energised making, for what should never have been, a very tense last minutes of the game and a very long 5 minutes of extra time.

We all stayed to applaud the team and receive their applause too. I was happily home for the 5.30pm football; most Pools fans will have had a longer, but I’d hope equally happy, journey home.

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Two Points Given Away

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY



Pools 1 Aldershot 1 (National League)
Saturday September 29 2018
Victoria Park


Today I was expecting a bounce back against one of the lower teams in the division after the defeat away last week to one of the the high spending teams expected to be in the mix at the end of the season. Manchester South or as we know them Salford.

The news that our oldest new signing had fallen over a slice of toast and was going to be on the sidelines again for at least another month set me off smelling fish. The lad was at the club pre season and has still not kicked a ball in anger. At a time we need a scorer it sounds like we have signed a sick note player which I hope is not going to be the cases the lad was good when on loan to us previously.

Three changes today sounded like the manager had his best team out, and in the first half we looked capable of getting a result as we won the toss which is always a good start. We were getting men forward but once again we lacked the final touch, the man to put these chances away has yet to appear. There was some good approach play but again no real threat on a side that had lost the last six away games we just could not break them down. Going close every time is not enough, some fans in the Town end were growing restless early on and Pools players hitting the ball wide or over the bar or just running out of space is not good to watch.
"Luke was just being Luke but playing up front on his own he can take no blame for today's result."

I think we got lucky in the first half despite not playing that well after the early stages we managed a goal contrived between Woods and Muir who made a nice lob over the keeper to make it one-nil.

They say goalkeepers have to be mad and Loach proved the point as he dived at the feet of an Aldershot player to block him and the ball and up until the half time whistle, which had been delayed for an injury to Woods, it was tough going for Pools.

The second half was all Aldershot when, as the Ditchburn Poolie commented, we had the shortest man on the pitch, Luke, playing the role of a lone striker and we filled the middle with six midfielders and the opposition overran us. Loach, who was voted Man-of-the-Match, made three saves in as many minutes as the visitors battered us. One comment from the Ditch was that it looks as if Bates is being over-cautious and hoping just to save a point but is still not sure how to even do that; if this is his strongest team then we are starting to see the cracks. OK last season we would have lost these games but at least at home you need to start collecting three points.

We did give up two points shortly after when a Pools attack broke down with a weak shot the keeper picked up easily and a quick throw led to a goal down the right and a shot across the box and into the net left Loach grasping at thin air.

We were second best from then on and if I was an Aldershot fan I would have felt aggrieved at the end result as they had the better of most of the game. A shout for a late penalty from Pools was rightly waived and not unexpected from another poor official. One argument I would have with him was he let too many tackles go early on when Pools players were getting chopped down for fun and one chance of Luke making his mark was waived as a foul against the defender when four yards from me I could see a hand full of Luke’s shirt and a ref twenty-five yards away gives the decision the other way. OK I don't expect officials to take any notice of partisan fans, I just want them to be fair but fat chance of that in this division.

A few players were off their game today. Noble was not his ebullient self, maybe due to the fact that his captain was back. Billy's Contract's nemesis Featherstone had a stinker. Wood who took a wallop early on was struggling but it had been a tough old game, which they all seem to be down here. Luke was just being Luke but playing up front on his own he can take no blame for today's result. Why have we a striker on loan that we are leaving out of the team for midfielders? Sorry Mr. Bates but despite our position the 3500 fans need and deserve more before they start early Christmas shopping on match days.

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Any Other Business

MERVYN THE MONKEY mops up


So, the bubble would seem to have burst, or at least wobbled a bit, but we experienced Poolies can at least see that having points in the bank is probably more important than being in the top seven - it helps the relegation fight.

Criticism has been levelled at Matthew Bates for his sometimes strange tactics and substitutions, but he's a young manager, still feeling his way, and the big question is whether he'll learn from his mistakes. Will he again use Luke James as a lone striker despite him being about a foot shorter than his markers? Will he, as a defender himself, continue to tolerate late goals being conceded?

When you look at the league table one factor becomes apparent. The top teams all score lots of goals. While it doesn't matter whether midfielders or strikers put them away, Pools miss lots of chances and don't score often enough. Perhaps if Bates addressed that then conceding late wouldn't be so much of a problem, but addressing both would be useful. 

The last few matches may have been disappointing but those same results last season would have had us enthusing so perhaps there are reasons for not being too disappointed.



We saw this on the BBC 1 red button channel, where it often shows continuously updated details of current football matches (but usually only when some of those matches involve Premiership clubs.)

Two weeks later it was still showing Manarama rather than Vanarama as the sponsors of the National League. Perhaps the BBC knows something we don't.

Anyway, that screen also shows a warning for Pools, who at the time of writing face Boreham Wood at the Vic in their next match. Boreham were a goal up in 3 minutes, 2 up in 6, and three up in 23 minutes. Mind, Sutton are currently above Pools and Boreham aren't, so we're not sure if that proves anything



Last month's edition caused a bit of a kerfuffle on one of the internet's Pools messageboard due to the number of match reports we included.

In actual fact there was the same amount of non-match-report content as usual, it's just that the combination of a lot of matches in a short time, coupled with most of them being nearby for some of our contributors, meant that we were spoilt for choice, and our choice, for good or ill, was to use the lot. 

Now that the "winter timetable" is in operation, there won't be enough matches to cause a similar problem again this season.

And finally, Arthur Pickering's article from the Mail about Len Ashurst hanging up his boots was written in August 1972, an amazing (for us oldies, at least), 46 years ago.

The Season So Far


BILLY'S CONTRACT


Owing to some PPP. (P--- poor planning) on the holiday front I managed to miss Pools' first two home games of the season. Thanks to the internetty thing I was able to keep in touch and read from afar the match reports of all the games that I had missed and whilst at that stage we had not won any matches the Mail was telling us that already things are looking a lot better than last season and that Pools should be in the thick of it at the end of the season. I recall that same paper telling its readers that after the opening game of the season which Pools lost at home to Dover that fans shouldn't press the panic button as there were 45 games left to play.Then as the season progressed it was down to 25 games then 14 and finally dwindled to four games, not to ensure the league title or indeed the play offs but National League survival.

With that in mind I got to The Vic early for the Maidenhead game with the intention of asking my Poolie Friends / Pals / Chorbers / Rarfs / Old codgers and Ne'er-do-wells what was the view from the terraces, or was the Mail talking out the back of its stop press? To quote Eric Morecambe basically I was asking 'What do you think of it so far?' With one exception (one regular who was not present and who had, I am told, already given up on Pools after only two home games saying 'Different players, same old rubbish'. Everyone else I spoke to more or less concurred that we have better players but as a team they have not as yet gelled together or dominated matches and allow the opposition into the game. Pretty much like last season in some respects.

The universal opinion held by all was that even though he had yet to play in a winning side or a side which kept a clean sheet, Andrew Davies is already a candidate for the player of the year and his recent injury is a massive blow, not only for his dominance in both penalty areas, but also for the loss of his experience and leadership qualities on the field of play. From what I saw of him pre-season I would not disagree with this and hope he returns to the side sooner rather than later. I can't help but be happy with the result against Maidstone but the performance itself was far from convincing and in truth Pools did well to hold on to their slender lead.

"If Matty Bates can carry out some fine tuning, some teams are likely to get a good battering"
First impressions of the new signings are positive and they seem to be of a better quality than those that Craig Harrison brought in this time last season. The sluggish starts and finishes to matches might be a case of their taking time to gell as a group as well as coming to terms with and adapting to the 3 5 2 system the manager has introduced.

The following home game against the title favourites Chesterfield was a real test of character especially with the height in their squad and their manager's experience at this level. Even though the Spireites (sounds like a soul singer's backing band) had only one tactic, that of the long throws of Sam Muggleton, which put me in mind of his namesake, a SAM surface-to-air missile, such was the distance and speed his throws achieved. By comparison Ryan Donaldson's throws were like a girl (can I say that?)

The game itself was as good as I have seen in many a season and Pools should have been out of sight by the interval but once again we had to hang on in there as we defended yet another precarious single goal advantage.

So what of Pools so far. At home we are creating plenty of chances but not tucking as many away as we all would like. The midfield looks a lot healthier with Liam Noble running things and wanting the ball all the time thus allowing Nicky Featherstone to go into uncharted waters further up the field and. ..score goals! Nico Muir, Luke James and Peter Kioso so far have been the pick of the bunch. I though Kioso would be a fringe player but he belies his youth and looks as if he has been playing for years.

I am not sure how much punishment Muir and James can take over a full season, more so when they are having to cope with long balls being punted up to them with their backs to defenders and to that end I feel that on occasion we should have a big man up front to take some of the flak off them whilst dishing out some of his own flak as well.

Bates should consider alternating Pools' style of play and instead of hitting long high predictable balls to the front two, also play ball to feet, as with their pace defenders would hate to see Muir and James running directly at them.

Another worry is that with one exception so far this season Pools have only kept one clean sheet. Brutal as it may sound, once fit, Andrew Davies should be put straight back into the side irrespective of how well Myles Anderson or Carl Magnay have been playing.

It will be of interest to see who makes way for Luke Williams once he is fully fit. A word on Ryan Donaldson. By his own admission he did not have the best of seasons last year, but It has got to be said he is starting to settle into his new role as a wing back and has done well so far. With luck he could prove to be as good as a new signing.

In summing up so early in the new campaign, I don't think it would be unfair to say that home and away Pools have not played to their full capabilities and are not running on full steam as yet. That said they are grinding out results even against teams that they are expected to beat which at this stage last season was not the case. If Matty Bates can carry out some fine tuning, some teams are likely to get a good battering which in turn will see Pools regain Football League status.

HOW TIME FLIES

Did I hear this right. Wrexham have been in the National league for ten years. Shocking when one comes to think about it. Let's hope by the end of the season it will be eleven years.

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At Last, Doses of the Trots!!

GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY


Before the Barrow game, it was four wins on the trot; including the Barrow game, it's six games unbeaten on the trot. What a change from last season where we were wondering where the next points were going to come from. Even Lady Luck shone down on us when Barrow missed their penalty. It's all coming together and there’s confidence in the air. Very little moaning on social media, except, of course, when it comes to referees.

For me – and many others – the highlight of the run was the win against Chesterfield. A hard side who bullied us throughout the game, we defended as though our lives depended on it. I think everyone stayed back to applaud the players at the end of the match. Even in the Barrow game, Poolies applauded the effort that was made. We have a defence that can dig in and whilst we could be scoring more goals, there is now a desire to ‘shoot on sight’ – typified by Nicky Featherstone’s goal against Chesterfield. Last season, a midfielder with the ball in the penalty box would have put it out wide only for the resultant cross to be cleared.
"We have a defence that can dig in and whilst we could be scoring more goals, there is now a desire to ‘shoot on sight’"

After the Barrow game, I looked up the table and , glory be, Harrogate Town are top of the league. Maybe our 2-2 draw against them wasn’t too bad after all. The point has been made that with the exception of Harrogate Town most of our games have been against teams near the bottom. Yet, it was precisely these teams who overcame us last season, particularly at home.

Mention has been made of our defence and the plaudits have been made many times to Peter Kioso. As well as being an outstanding defender, I think one of his main attributes is his recovery when beaten by the opposing wide man. The one player who stood out for me in the Barrow game was Mark Kitching. OK, he didn’t play a blinder but did everything he had to – defending and going forward. I like the look of him.

Unfortunately, I have a confession to make. I missed the game against Maidenhead due to being away in Whitby for a few days. The break was arranged before the fixtures came out – a dangerous thing to do. However, it so happened that on the Sunday Whitby Town were holding a Gala Day. ‘Fancy going?’ I said to my better half. The reply was a definite veto – footy was out whilst we were on holiday – except ringing my grandson to see how Pools had got on. His reply sure got the holiday off to a great start.

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Something to Build on

WAGGA MOON


A steady as we go start to the season which is as good as we can have expected.

Sixth place in the league after the horrors of the last few years is indeed progress and it could have been even better if some late goals hadn't given away points.

And this is with five of last season's losers, Loach, Magnay, Donaldson, Xavi and Woods still getting a place in the team. Andy Davies, Luke Williams and Marcus Dinanga in for Magnay, Xavi and Woods and we may be getting there.

Our main concern is as usual not enough goals from our strikers. Its alright for Liam Noble to score a few penalties and even Xavi to get on the scoresheet, which shows the mediocrity of this league, but we meed the front men to weigh in. It is doubtful Luke James is going to get many as he has never been a prolific scorer.

Surely it is time to give Dinanga a few games up front as what little we have seen of him looks promising. I hope we are not going down the Tubby Turner route of loan signings where we bring them in and leave them on the bench.

This tends to piss of the parent club off and make them think twice about lending us anymore players.
"Sixth place in the league after the horrors of the last few years is indeed progress"

Talking of Tubby Turner I see there has been a talk-in arranged with the guy. Of all the ex-players and managers we have had, and some real characters among them, this guy would be about number 999 on the list of would-be participants. Dour Yorkshireman personified. Maybe he could get Ken Hodcroft to join him and they could call themselves the Two Clowns. The admission price of £5 entry says it all. And that is including a meal.

The club are trying to get all the fans' groups to work together to help out. This includes the Trust, Friends Group, Supporters' Association and Disabled Supporters' Group. I wish them all the best in hoping that lot can work together. I will believe it when I see it. There are a few oddballs in there who like nothing more than a bit of aggro.

The signing of Luke Williams is a real statement of intent by Raj Singh. A real footballer who won't have come cheap and I am looking forward to what he can bring to our midfield. Some forward looking and forward thinking, none of the old sideways shuffle or back pass to the keeper. At last a midfielder who can create something and weigh in with a goal or two. I think he and Liam Noble will be the best midfielders in the National League. Now if we can send Xavi and Woods back to Harrogate and take their striker Dom Knowles in exchange we can really get the top spot in our sights.

I would like to know what Josh Hawkes has done wrong to be completely out of the picture. Not even on the subs' bench for some games this season. It must be very frustrating for the boy, who was playing so well at the back end of last season, to be completely overlooked this time around, while a grossly inferior, overweight guy is waddling around in midfield. I wouldn't go so far as to say tackling as he couldn't tackle a fish supper.

One guy showing a big improvement this season is Ryan Donaldson. Last season he seemed to have an attitude problem and wasn't trying, but this seaon at wing back he has looked the part and is one of our better players. And Liam Noble has been all we expected and more. Just the type of player we have been missing for years - an experienced pro who likes a tackle and is immense in this league.

Finally a word for our much maligned scouting system. A pat on the back for whoever discovered those two excellent signings Peter Kioso and Niko Muir and persuaded them to come up north. Who knows, Marcus Dinanga could be equally as good if he is ever given a chance to show what he can do.

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