December 02, 2011

I Was There

POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM witnessed Pools break an away day jinx


There have been many memorable Pools games over the years. They may be distinctive for an exceedingly bad performance or great result, a superb goal, controversial decision, a sending off, or crowd trouble. When it comes to Pools, the last few years have produced loads.
As well as all the play-off games, I would include the cup game at Sunderland, the superb comeback from 3-0 down to earn a draw at Stockport during that amazing unbeaten run, and the demolition of the Darloids at the Arena. The Scott Flinders equaliser against Bournemouth was also quite memorable, as was that Bjornsson miss at Huddersfield when it seemed impossible to score.

Go a bit further back, and there have been many games which are remembered for the wrong reason. The 6-0 defeat by Donny Rovers at the Vic will forever be etched on my memory, as will be the capitulation at Mansfield when we managed to lose 4-3 after leading 3-1 with a few minutes left.
A couple of seasons ago in a printed issue of Monkey Business, we featured an article from one of the ‘Swansea Sixteen’ – the small group of Poolies who were there at Swansea in 1968 to witness Pools win 2-0 and secure promotion for the first time in their history.

Whilst I have been part of some small Pools crowds, the only one which really stands out is the 5-2 victory at Port Vale, where there were under a hundred Poolies present, in stark contrast to the 10,000+ following at the Stadium of Light a few weeks earlier. Despite leading comfortably with only minutes to go, there was still an air of nervousness in the away end, thanks to the heavy snow which was starting to cover the lines on the pitch. Although we half-joked about the possibility, it would have been typical for Pools if the ref had abandoned the match in the 89th minute."until Saturday 19th November, Scunny was one of those places I just expected to come away from disappointed."

One of the weirdest games I have attended was at Scunthorpe in 2003. We were spanked 4-0, but thanks to results elsewhere, this was the game that saw us secure promotion out of the bottom tier for only the third time in our history. It’s difficult to describe the atmosphere in the Pools end during the second half, but let’s just say that it was really difficult to celebrate.
Since that game I have been to every league fixture at Glanford Park, only to come away disappointed. I’ve seen us lose there in the LDV/Johnstones Trophy too, but was fortunate to see not just one but two David Foley goals to come away with a win in the League Cup. Yet until Saturday 19th November, Scunny was one of those places I just expected to come away from disappointed.

I had no idea how long it had been since we won there in the league so I looked it up on the excellent www.inthemadcrowd.co.uk site – getting on for 22 years. Paul Dalton scored the only goal of the game in March 1990. We’d played there in the league 11 times since, with only a couple of draws to shout about. So it was with a feeling of impending doom that I set off to Derby to Andy Ramalamadingdong’s house. He was upbeat about our chances, despite him knowing all about our dismal record. After a bit of discussion, we decided that statistics and the law of averages was on our side, because the more games we played there, the more likely we were to win at some point.

Thankfully Scunny were feeling generous. Pools went in at half time with a deserved lead, Monky scuffing a shot into the bottom corner. The second half saw Pools still in command, with a Sweeney flicked header taking us over the finish line. Although it was difficult to criticise any of the Pools players, it had to be said that Scunny were pretty poor.
As well as breaking the hoodoo, the game was memorable for a couple of atrocious refereeing decisions. Firstly, Peter Hartley was booked for daring to resemble Evan Horwood. Horwood committed a yellow-card rated offence, and between them the linesman and the ref decided it was Hartley who should go into the book.

Thankfully this was overturned on appeal, and hopefully while the powers that be were reviewing footage of the game they will have also looked at the unbelievable decision which led to Pools being awarded a throw in. Despite the ball clearly crossing the goal line right in front of the linesman, he held his flag aloft to signal a throw. You couldn’t really blame the ref for following the lino as he was probably unsighted, but you’d have thought the body language of the players and the resounding laughter from the Scunthorpe fans would have given him a clue. Thankfully it wasn’t a decision which made a difference to the game, but you have to wonder what the match officials drink at half time.

The one disappointing thing about the day was the away turnout – only a couple of hundred Poolies were there to witness the historic victory. If we have to wait another 20-odd years to see a Pools win at Scunny, at least I will be one of them who can say “I was there!”