Showing posts from October, 2012

Donny - As I seen it!


Pools 1 Doncaster Rovers 1  

Saturday  13th October 2012

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at Victoria Park


The visit of another Yorkshire giant to the Vic today brought out another decent crowd for the game. 

The 4600 included a good turn out of Where's Wally lookalikes in their red and white hooped shirts; a shame that half way through the second half they acted like total Wallies and attacked some of Hartlepool’s finest for some unknown reason. I later found out a lady Dons fan had taken  exception to a male Dons fan standing up in front of her in a seated area, and males, like they do, defended the lady’s honour, and they battered each other, also attacking the intervening steward, and a handful were turfed out. 

Before the game, and looking at the form of both teams, we would have taken a point from this game. Not having lost on the road and only losing one at home, the Tykes were obvious favourites. As usual the opposition looked huge, especially the back four.

 Looking down the team sheet I noticed a Shelton Martis, the former life saviour of Darlo in the heart of defence, and I am not biased against Darlo or ex Darlo players, honestly I am not. But this lad is crude, to the point of painful to watch. He would be more suited to one of those other Tyke teams that play with thirteen men per side. 

Early on they looked quite a good side, confident on the ball and slick down the wings, with Billy Paynter and a player by the name of Chris Brown they looked as if we had our hands full. 

Noble, who I am not totally convinced about yet, made a great run on goal but was blocked. In the next attack Howard landed a header on the roof of the net. It was one of those games where lots of effort was made for very little open chances for both teams. Doncaster came very close when a whipped in cross from the left skimmed the head of an attacker and whistled past the back post, any more than a slightly heavier touch and it would have been a goal. 

They looked the busiest team in the first half and we were fortunate to be hanging on nil-all in the half. Martis had a chance that he headed wide. Horwood, who took a knock in the first ten minutes, was struggling and went off just on the half hour mark, being replaced by Poole, who almost scored with his first touch - a shot that struck the bottom of the post, which I thought the keeper had palmed, but a goal kick was given. 

Late in the half Pools were looking more confident. Howard, despite under heavy pressure being man handled by Martis, was still winning headers, and Murray was pushing Pools forward, helped by Holden and Franks, who were making inroads; Holden in particular making some great throws that put pressure on the Dons.

Just before the break Bennett, the pacy and skilful winger, cut across field and hit a sweet shot that just scraped past the far post with Ned scrambling back. 

The start of the second half, and I was all for hanging on for a point, but Pools were a different side, taking the game to Doncaster, and getting more and more success. Howard literally had to wrestle himself clear every time we had a free kick, with Martis being the main culprit. To say he was crude would be a compliment to him. He was struggling to contain Howard and even though just having been warned, both Martis and Jones grappled with Howard and a penalty was given. Not before time, as they had been spoken to at least four times for the same offence in as many minutes, as Pools turned up the pressure. 

Aussie was nominated for the spot kick and he doubled his tally with another perfect spot kick and in truth Pools, were coasting and Donny were showing a lot of angst as things turned in favour of the home team. "Before the game, and looking at the form of both teams, we would have taken a point from this game." Murray, one of the players recalled had a great game. Gone were the errors we witnessed on Tuesday. Murray made a spectacular lob onto the boot of Sweeney, who had made a run into the box, but he was crowded out before he made a shot. Frank,s like his last game, found himself clear in the box from a RH ball and once again he shuffled his way into losing the ball when any kind of a shot would have been better.

Ned, who is in great form, luckily for Pools, once again made a great save palming a speculative shot from Donny over the Rink End stand. The equaliser came from a nothing free kick that the ref Mr Scott gave against Holden after an attacker fell to the ground when Holden said boo to him. A high ball into the box and a scramble ensued with the ball pinging between players and one of them managed to get it over the line before we could clear it.

Once again Pools lost two points at the death after deserving so much more, especially for the second half rally. We took a point from a good side and that is an improvement on current form. Let's hope it is a turnaround in fortunes for Pools, and we finally start to get the rub of the green. 

Bradford - As I seen it!


Pools 0 Bradford City 0   (Pools lost 3-2 on penalties)

Tuesday  9th October 2012

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at Victoria Park


Who were up for the cup? Sadly Pools once again floundered in front of a crowd of 1700 fans. 

A new signing from our illustrious neighbours was probably the highlight of the night as he looks the part and the work rate shown between him and Noble on the night deserved better. Bradford featured an ex-Poolie of sick-note fame, who signed himself off the sick to play against his old team. He did not do a lot but we remembered that all too well.

Sweeney, Murray and Howard were all rested and Monky out through injury made it an interesting line up with RH, and Horwood in midfield, possibly on the strength of his goal last week alongside Walton, with Noble and Wyke the strike force. 

It was obvious from the start that second division Bradford were not here just to make the numbers up. I would say that for most of the game they were the better side tactically. OK some behind me at the game might take issue with that but they went closer to scoring throughout the game and I do not remember us testing their keeper the way Ned was tested. You can’t argue against statistics. 

Walton had a mare. I have never seen so many passes go astray losing possession and he can’t tackle to save his life. I had a discussion at half time with one punter in the Town End who runs a pub close to the ground but shall remain nameless. As with all fans interpretation of events is subjective and he tried to convince me that Walton was actually standing in open space all the game laying the ball off but his teammates were not passing the ball to him. A bit of a contradiction in his argument methinks. Despite him not being the only culprit he did waste a lot of ball and was hooked in the second half by the bench, who obviously agreed with the opinion of a lot of fans last night. To be fair he did have ONE shot that was blocked by the keeper but we expected more from him, and as yet he has not fulfilled what his pedigree promised. 

Noble and Wyke had good chances and linked up well, which could be the ingredient Coops is looking for. Pools rallied late in the first half but on balance I think Bradford more than shaded the half, as Ned was m.o.m. for Pools, making a string of fine saves. 
"The second half went much the same as the first with my mate Ken and I entertaining ourselves by counting the fans"

The second half went much the same as the first with my mate Ken and I entertaining ourselves by counting the fans and guessing from the five set options what is going to happen when we get a corner. Ken is a Gamesmaster and professes to own the last complete set of some obscure football game something akin to Subbuteo. The corner game he developed will not make Ken a fortune but as you will all want to play it the rules are: when Pools get a corner what is going to happen next? The options are: too long; too short; straight to the keeper; straight to the head of a defender; or ball out of play, and you are not allowed to pick the same choice in succession. OK it sounds defeatist but relieves the stress during the game. And yes we are that predictable. 

Back to the game, and Pools really started to rally after Sweeney came on, and Pools really started to run at the opposition, but it was inevitable that we were heading for the dreaded shoot out. As you know I am not one for naming names but I was surprised at the list of penalty takers with only Aussie and Wyke striking the net and the other three all hitting the woodwork to give Bradford City an easy trip into the next round. 

Looking at our position in the league we had best concentrate our efforts in that direction once again, but there is always the FA Cup, where we usually get Sweet FA. Jack Baldwin could have shaded Ned for m.o.m.; he is a class act and on the night took a physical hammering from a centre forward who enjoyed the freedom to play his man throughout the game.

Darren Holden in his second start looks to be growing in confidence and made some good runs down the left flank.  Horwood did well enough but tended to drop deep to his full back berth at times. Hartley had a steady game and tested the keeper with a good header. Franks came into his own late in the game peppering the box with good crosses. Not all doom and gloom but sad to say we should have seen this team off before the penalty shoot out. Roll on Saturday.

Crewe - As I seen it!


Crewe Alexandra 2 Pools 1   Saturday  6th October 2012

Match report by POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM at Gresty Road


 Despite Pools being in dismal form, I was quite looking forward to a visit to Gresty Road. 
Although Pools had lost at home to Sheffield United, the performance didn't warrant a defeat, so if the corner was to be turned, where better place to avenge the 5-0 drubbing in the League Cup a couple of months ago?

It was a beautiful, clear day autumn as me and Ewan drove to Derby to Andy Ramalamadingdong's house. Heading west along the A50, some clouds appeared, but it wasn't enough to spoil our fun day out. Yet.

Crewe is one of the few remaining enjoyable away fixtures at this level. Gresty Road is a proper old ground, all unsymmetrical with higgledy piggledy stands. It is next door to the train station, there are plenty of pubs nearby, and parking isn't an issue. 

We pulled up round the corner a couple of minutes walk away. As we neared the train station, two worse-for-wear gadgies in Stoke City tops staggered around the pavement and road, dodging other pedestrians and traffic. One of them leaned against the wall and began spewing profusely, much to Ewan's delight. At four years old, the only time he had previously seen anyone borking up was when they had eaten too many kets and fairy cakes at a party, so the sight of a fully grown man producing a large pavement pizza was the high point of his day.

The vomiting hero mumbled an apology as we passed, and before we knew it we were near the ground. Crewe is one of those grounds at which you have to buy a ticket from the office first before you go through the turnstile, which is something which gets right on my tits. In this case it wasn't too bad as there weren't many Poolies in attendance, but I have been to many games where this logistical process has caused huge queues.

Tickets in hand, we passed through a knot of stewards keeping an eye out for workie-tickets, and in through the turnstiles. The away end at Gresty Road should really be called the 'away side', as it runs along the side of the pitch rather than behind a goal.

The sun was still shining brightly, so we took our seats to bask in the front row where Ewan could get a great view of the action. It was the first time I had seen Pools in the smart new dark blue away kit, and I have to say it looks ace. I'll promise to be a good lad and hopefully Santa will leave one under the tree for me.

"...the Crewe striker sent the ball into orbit, well over the bar, and I think over the roof of the stand behind the goal. I had the idea that it landed in an empty train wagon passing on the tracks behind the stadium, and would arrive in Glasgow before the final whistle."
Pools started off brightly, and even the early loss of Andy Monkhouse to injury didn't dampen the spirits. Evan Horwood proved to be a capable replacement, scoring after some great movement when he'd barely been on the pitch a couple of minutes.

Pools being Pools, it was never going to be plain sailing, and Crewe soon had the chance to level from the penalty spot after a harsh handball decision. Thankfully the Crewe striker sent the ball into orbit, well over the bar, and I think over the roof of the stand behind the goal. I had the idea that it landed in an empty train wagon passing on the tracks behind the stadium, and would arrive in Glasgow before the final whistle. We still went into the break after being pegged back though, an absolute pearler of a curler which Flinders wouldn't have stopped in a hundred attempts.

Pools huffed and puffed in the second half, Ryan Noble in particular putting himself about. It was Crewe that found the winner though, and thankfully I missed it. Ewan was touching cloth for most of the game, so it was whilst he sat dunging away that we heard the loud cheer signalling the home goal. This was confirmed by an extraordinarily loud speaker on the bog wall, that nearly caused me to move my bowels. On flushing the toilet I noticed a pair of heavily skidded Calvin Kleins discarded in the corner. They looked as if they had been there for some time, otherwise I would have speculated as to which Poolie had been forced to go commando.

Pools created more than enough chances to equalise, but a combination of bad luck, good goalkeeping and poor finishing meant another undeserved defeat. There were plenty of positives to come from the match - Jack Baldwin in particular really looks the part in the centre of defence, and will be very hard done to if he loses his place. Darren Holden seems determined to make himself a regular in the left back slot, and on this performance is in with a good shout. Noble looks to be the right sort of striker to partner Howard, and hopefully he will bang a few in whilst on loan.

However, unless some of the current squad pull their fingers out and play to their potential, it looks like a long, hard, grinding season ahead. I'd be over the moon with another year of mid-table obscurity, but I don't think it will happen. My prediction is for Pools to finish fourth bottom, nine points behind Portsmouth, who somehow avoid having the mandatory 10 point deduction for going into administration.


BILLY'S CONTRACT gets musical

Was it Tony Blair who said 'Things Can Only Get Better'?

But they didn't.

He must have been a Pools supporter as well.

What a day I had yesterday. Broke the lens of my super duper camera. Had manky fish and chips in Whitby. After reassuring my wife that the toffee I offered her from an Olde World sweetie shop would not cause her filling to fall out, it promptly did.

I then got a text on the train back home from a Manure supporting mate (whom I bet 40 quid with, that Pools would reach the play off's) informing me that I might as well cough up now as Pools had been beaten again.

The only consolation I got as I disembarked from the train at Middlesbrough was seeing a platform full of Boro fans. I did not have to ask how their team got on, but just by looking at their faces I knew their team had lost. So the weekend was not a total disaster after all.


I decided to take the trip down to Preston mainly to tick the ground off, as it was one I had never been to before. So as I write this, only another 39 grounds to go for the set.

Had a lovely tootle down the A66 taking in the Yorkshire, Durham, and Cumbrian scenery on the way down on a gorgeous late summer evening.

I was pleasantly surprised by Preston, expecting to see a town that resembled a Lowry painting, with matchstick men wearing clogs warning us that there were 'trouble at mill'. However we instead found ourselves in a leafy suburb and managed to park the trusty Skoda but one street away from the ground.

Externally the ground itself looked striking, protected by 4 floodlights that resembled Martian fighting machines from War of t' Worlds (Lancashire dialect).

The locals themselves were very friendly, and one of the stewards not only give us directions to a local hostelry, but also took the time out to ensure that we got there by walking part of the way with us to said drinking emporium. We asked if he would care to join us in a libation but he said he did not drink on duty!

After a few reasonably priced drinks later we headed to the ground just in time to see H’Angus shake hands with the Preston mascot Deepdale Duck, (after 'Scunny Bunny' my all time favourite club mascot).

From there on the evening went downhill rapidly...apart from the first twenty minutes in which Pools dominated the proceedings without getting anywhere. Even after we went two nil down I told my mate that I still expected Pools to take maximum points or at the very worst a point, as quite frankly Preston were very average to say the least and that was being complimentary to them. Come the second half, Pools imploded and to sum up we left Preston after a good 'Deepdale Ducking' or something that rhymes with ducking!

And things got worse. We choose the M62 for our homeward bound route, mainly to take in sustenance at Wetherby. However, due to road works on said motorway we ended getting diverted into Leeds and as such by the time we hit the Wetherby Whaler (we gave up on the Frying Pan some time back) they had just served their last portion of chips and were locking up the premises. Just what we needed after our 'battering' at Preston.
" If the team had the same passion as Cooper then we would be ten points clear at the top of the league."

With heavy hearts and empty stomachs we headed home...only to find that the A19 was closed for repairs. This meant that the rest of the journey was spent on the north bound lane of the soul destroying A1. Did not hit the sack until just before 1am.

The following day Billy’s Contract junior, who is now based up in Geordie Land, told me that he was all for giving the home game against Shrewsbury a miss the following Saturday. That was until he heard Neale Cooper’s impassioned interview on the radio after the Preston fiasco. Cooper was in bits, you could feel the hurt in his voice, and how much both the club (not necessarily this team) and the town mean to him. If the team had the same passion as Cooper then we would be ten points clear at the top of the league.

I feel sorry for Coops, and sincerely hopes he doesn't leave the club (either on his own initiative or Mr Hovercraft's). Sadly we have a goodly number of underperforming players within the team/squad who at time of writing have dragged us into a relegation battle. This is either because they don't care about the club or do not want to play for Neale Cooper.
If that is indeed the case they should make their views known and ask to leave the club, however they need to take a reality check before they do so as many of them would not find another league club to take them on. Need I mention Boyd, Haslam, Larkin and Brown. In fairness to Brownie it is only his injury problems that have confined him to non-league football.

Previously, we had Behan and Gamble and numerous others who could not gain employment at another league club, which to me confirms at how average our squad has been over the last few years and proves that we have been carrying passengers and punching above our weight in this league.

On the down side Neale Cooper must take some of the responsibility for what is happening. Yes, he inherited some dead wood from the previous regime whom we are stuck with because they are under contract. However he did have the opportunity not to renew contracts of some of the players currently in the squad (we all know who they are).

If true, I find it incredible that Cooper signed Simon Walton without seeing him play. Normally he only signs players when he has them given them the once over to see if they will 'fit in'. If this is the case I was wondering who suggested his signing. I still hope the boy comes good though.

Some of Cooper’s team selections have been strange to say the least. He readily admits that he does not know who Stevie Howard's best strike partner should be. Poole is not strong enough, can't control a ball and won't put his head in where it hurts. Luke James is not the finished article by a long way. I think Coops’ hopes were pinned on Ryan Noble signing on a season-long loan who, in turn probably would have complemented Howard's play.

We currently have two wingers playing out of position on opposite wings and a centre half playing at full back (has Danny Wilson returned?) We have a non-existent midfield which contains a real grafter who has the knack of giving the ball away in dangerous areas. We have another midfielder who barely touches the ball.

Neale Cooper’s solution today against Colchester was to put Neil Austin in midfield. I nearly wept when I heard this, but on the plus side I did not make the long trip to Colchester to witness it. Austin has previously had a couple of games in midfield under Turner or Wadsworth and it wasn't good. It was like watching a full back play in midfield.

Cooper has threatened several times to drop underperforming players but he hasn't got the strength in depth either in numbers or quality to do so on a whole scale basis. For my money Cooper has part of the answer staring him in the face...or the bench, and that is to get Sir Ritchie back on the field of play.

To my mind, he, along with Jack Baldwin are the only footballers at the club. I would put Richie in midfield or alternatively - how about this for controversy - up front alongside Stevie Howard. Humps has the 'nouse' and the experience to play in this role.
I was aghast against Shrewsbury when Coops put Holden on instead of Ritchie. Whilst I am in favour of youth being given a chance, to my mind throwing an inexperienced full back in midfield at a time of crisis over someone who has been there and done that is mind boggling.

If nothing else Ritchie can pass a ball and does have a vocal presence on the pitch. As for the defence...I rest my case...nothing has changed since I gave my opinion of it in Monkey Business after the pre-season friendlies. As a unit they don't function together, and are subject to too many individual errors. If one defender's performance begins to improve almost immediately the form of one of his colleagues goes out of the window (Think Horwood and Hartley here).

Hartley must be responsible for a good half dozen goals being conceded this season even if it is just giving needless back passes back to the keeper for him to punt in to no man's land.

He has gone into Tony Adams mode by putting his hand up, unsuccessfully I might add, by appealing for non-existent offsides, normally after he has been skinned for pace by his opponent. Tony Adams, as well as the rest of the Arsenal defence had the off side trap down to a fine art form which sadly Peter Hartley and his counterparts could only dream about.

So how will it all end? All this may all be an elaborate ploy by the owners and directors of the club in achieving relegation with the long term hope of regenerating interest in the club and obtaining better ticket sales with a promotion winning team the following season.

The relegation bit I could go along with but as for the promotion, that will not happen with this squad.


I was disgusted with the verbal treatment Matty Robson received from certain quarters of the crowd when Carlisle played us at the Vic recently.

With very few exceptions most former players get a great reception from the Poolie faithful upon their return to the Vic. Look at Chris Westwood when he came back for Walsall, the cheer he got when he scored against us was almost embarrassing. I recall Scotty was scathing about this.

Can you imagine the reception someone like Eifion Williams would have got upon his return to the club...even if he banged in a hat-trick against us.

I can understand why some players do, or could get some stick upon their return to the club: Kevin Betsy, Chris Llewellyn, Mark Proctor, Andy Toman, Chris Beech and The Ginger Ninja all spring to mind as possible candidates, but Matty Robson?

Yes, Matty could be inconsistent, erratic at times but he always gave 100% to the club and never hid unlike some of the current crew when the chips were down. Certainly on current form I would have him in the Pools side now over the petulant Andy Monkhouse.

I must confess that I was gutted when Carlisle snatched the winner late on the other week, but a little bit of me was delighted that Matty scored it. If nothing else it wiped the smile from the faces of some the dimwits in our crowd. Hopefully they took it on the chin like Matty had to. Good on you Matty.

CENTRAL PARK is feeling a bit miserable

Written before the game against Colchester

At the beginning of the season I reported a meeting of the town end recidivists at which one of those present, the mindless optimist (I think it was me), had airily expressed the opinion that the team would finish in 8th place this season.

I’m usually an optimist about the team and am always surprised on the occasions when things don’t work out as expected (or should that be hoped?) and it can take quite a while for the penny to drop that ‘perhaps this might not be our season’.

Of course sometimes I catch on a bit quicker. I remember that I had realised by twenty past three on the first day of the 2001/02 season that the much anticipated smooth ride to promotion was not going to materialise when we struggled to a 1-1 draw with Mansfield.

There was even a season when I was in a fit of depression before a ball had been kicked. That was the 89/90 season when the then chairman, John Smart had been making pessimistic noises about finances over the summer and the manager, Bob Moncur, went sailing as the season was about to start. I think Bob must have had a similar idea to John Darwin but either lost his nerve or his bearings and ended up in Greatham Creek without a paddle instead of Panama.

That was the season when, without the intervention of Garry Gibson (yes he did do some good) and the inspired appointment of Cyril Knowles, we could have ended up on the long slide to the Northern League Division One. Of course some teams manage that transition in one bound (no need for names to be mentioned).

Still, all of that is in the past, so what about now? It is no exaggeration to say that I was genuinely shocked by the result in the first round of the Capital One Cup. A score of 0-5 in the first competitive match of the season against a team in our own division was way down the list of possible outcomes as far as I was concerned.

We had fielded what was considered by the manager to be our strongest eleven yet a newly promoted team just swept us aside. I know that in a cup competition the outcome of a 0-1 defeat is the same as a 0-9 defeat i.e. you are simply out of the competition, but, unless we were playing a team of much greater ability, as we did in the pre-season friendly against Newcastle, then 0-5 was an indication that we could be in deep trouble. Still, along with most of my friends, I went along with the thinking of ‘it’s just a touch of complacency’, or ‘it’s just a one off’ or ‘Crewe must be a better side than we thought’ and ‘it’s just as well to get the bad performance over before the season starts and points are at stake’. You get the idea; all the self delusion we used to use in the bad old days.

Then came the first match of the league season. It turned out that Swindon were also a better team than we had anticipated, and we were saved from defeat only by a penalty miss. I began to feel distinctly uneasy and then along came the performance at Notts County. The manager’s reaction, when taken with his response to the Crewe performance, confirmed to me that we have a real problem on our hands. You could tell that he was desperate to make changes, but you could also tell that his room for manoeuvre was strictly limited.

"...I went along with the thinking of ‘it’s just a touch of complacency’, or ‘it’s just a one off’ or ‘Crewe must be a better side than we thought’..."I have already gone on record as being absolutely delighted with the reappointment of Neale Cooper as manager, and I remain convinced that he is doing as good a job as anyone could with the resources at his disposal.

I remember that in his first spell as manager his record of signing players was pretty good. He certainly signed some who turned out to be not good enough but his transfer dealings were certainly to the overall benefit of the club. However I seem to remember that in his first spell he was allowed to recruit a great many more players than this time round. In the last close season he released six players but has only brought three new players to the club on permanent transfers.

I don’t think that there were very many people who took serious issue with the decision to release the players concerned, and I didn’t hear very many complaints about those coming in. The trouble is, from a squad strengthening point of view, there were just not enough new high quality players coming in.

Very few managers turn down additions to their squad so the approach of the owners comes into focus. For the record I am one of those who believe that IOR taking over Hartlepool United was probably the best thing that has happened to the club. They have provided the financial support to give us the kind of dignity we could only dream about in the past. Bills paid on time, provision of playing/training kit, a well kept stadium and immaculate playing surface, all taken for granted now, but not so in the past. Additionally they have also stated their willingness to make further investment (in reality make further donations) into the club if they become the owners of the ground.

I have seen nothing in the news media to suggest that IOR are in any kind of financial trouble, so their present approach should be attributed to choice rather than circumstance. So, why are IOR currently providing a level of expenditure on the playing resources that, in my opinion, run the real risk of the club being relegated?

The chairman has frequently made much of IOR’s support for the idea of a ‘salary cap,’ which I believe is mandatory in the 2nd division but as yet voluntary in the1st division, and has made it clear that Hartlepool United will abide by it voluntarily.

I’m not a great believer in the efficacy of a salary cap for reasons I won’t go into here, only to say that there are too many ways for people with lots of money to get round it. However, it is IOR’s money so it is their choice, but no matter how much they like the idea of the salary cap, to stick with it to the point of risking relegation if they can afford to spend more money to avoid it, seems like unnecessary martyrdom to me. I can’t see any other club being inspired to follow their example.

There is also the issue of the ownership of the ground alluded to above. IOR might well have taken a decision that no extra money will be spent on the team while they do not own the ground. I can understand this reaction, but if they think it will have any effect on the council then they haven’t been taking notice of what they have been dealing with all these years.

One of the main characteristics of IOR’s stewardship over the period they have been in charge has been their unwillingness to become embroiled in public controversy or slanging matches, for example over managerial changes or possible signings of players. I have always approved of this attitude, but the down side of it is that the lack of reliable information always leads to the production of rumours.

As football fans what we don’t know we make up, or should I say hear from a reliable source. We all know full well who owns the club but we still like to feel that in some way it is ‘ours’. Almost every week we hear rumours from ‘reliable sources’ that this player or that player is going to be joining us (I have one mate who still thinks Terry Bell is going to make a comeback) and our hopes are raised only to wither away due to lack of reliable information.

I fear we are now in for a hard frustrating season with the avoidance of the drop being our only ambition. I would hate to see the crowd turn against the owners, the team and especially the manager. If there really is no more money available to be spent on team strengthening then the very least IOR could do would be to say so publicly and let us know where we are.

If they have taken a policy decision to cut expenditure because of the non-acquisition of Victoria Park then let them say so and we can settle in for the inevitable drift into obscurity. Such a statement might be interpreted by some as an attempt to pressure the council into transferring Victoria Park to IOR. They shouldn’t worry about that. So long as the council members can retain their positions then what happens to Pools will be a matter of monumental indifference to them, as it always has been.

I have read the above and I don’t think that I have ever written anything so miserable since I started contributing to the fanzine. I must say that I am quite brought down by the whole season so far. Still a couple of wins in quick succession will soon have me predicting a place in the play offs at the very least.

See, it doesn’t take much to make me happy. Two or three wins will save the NHS a fortune in happy pills.


ALAN ESSEX watched as One Flew Into the Cuckoo's Net

Colchester 3 - Pools 1

Well by now you are probably all tired of me describing that Colchester’s ground is built on an ancient Roman burial site and brings us nothing but bad luck an old Asylum named Severalls. The area is officially known as Cuckoo Farm which was an area farmed by the ‘inmates’ (they’d be called ‘Service Users nowadays) to provide both occupation and fresh fruit / vegetables for the many within the asylum. At one stage there were over 2000 ‘inmates’. In the days it operated people could be put away for what would now be considered the norm, for example unmarried mothers who were in poverty, people with personality problems who would these days be left in the community albeit with a care plan and medication and those that didn’t look right or conform to local expectations. Severalls opened in 1913 and remained open until 1997 although in a much reduced state towards the end.

Still, enough of that, David and I were there to see a football match not dwell upon the vagaries of mental health care.

Colchester were without a win this season and we were not far behind with just the one. Colchester had just sacked their manager and we must now be preparing to do the same. Colchester had just signed 3 new players on loan and with one of them being Jabo Ibehre, a player who I have always rated since his days at Leyton Orient, I did fear the worst. I said to David before the kick off that I thought Ibehre would be good for 2 goals, that Peter Hartley is overrated and will make several errors and that Howard is a poor shadow of his former self. David has now insisted that we visit Ladbrokes on the way to our next game so that he can put a ‘few quid’ on my pearls of wisdom!" It’s interesting that scoring for Pools seems to mean the player is then dropped or substituted – see Poole, James, Walton, Monkhouse and now Lynch."

During the warm up David was very impressed with Franks' shooting ability and to be fair he did find the net regularly whilst others struggled. I had to remind David that the warm up didn’t actually count towards the result. He was most disappointed, as I imagine Franks was as he was pretty anonymous post warm up.

Pools lined up with a strange formation, Baldwin at right back Austin in midfield along with Murray, Sweeney, Franks and Lynch and Howard the lone striker. To be honest the team had no real shape throughout the game. Austin was lost in midfield when surely the better option would have had him in his usual position with Baldwin in midfield. The style of play bypassed Sweeney completely, Murray looked tired, Franks had peaked in the warm up leaving Lynch as the most potent midfield force.

Fortunately Colchester looked even worse keeping a player wide on either wing throughout the whole match and also playing a strange system that their caretaker manager must have invented. They looked no threat and Pools grew in confidence. After 5 minutes a great misplaced pass from a Colchester player found Lynch who drove into the box and finished with a great curling shot across the keeper. This looked easy as Colchester offered no threats and this is how it remained for the first half an hour.

Now, I’ve read the official site and it says that Howard was dominant – I’m afraid this is utter tosh (other, stronger language is available), he was poor, didn’t win a header, had one long range speculative shot and didn’t hold the ball up. I was disappointed as I had rated him, mostly for his time at Luton and then, mostly playing against us but he was poor today. I realise the official site is just that and they follow the ‘company code’ but their description of the match was not just biased it was incorrect and gives the wrong impression.

Colchester began to gain in confidence as is so often the way as we cannot seem to apply a killer punch. Flinders had to make a great save pushing the ball away for a corner and you could see the tide turning. Following another build up, a simple through ball beat our two central defenders to leave Massey a relatively easy shot beyond the helpless Flinders who quite reasonably was furious with our defenders. Still half time was only about 10 minutes away and we could then surely regroup. No. Five minutes later Hartley attempted a header back to Flinders under no pressure. The header was woefully weak and Ibehre nipped in and beat Flinders who was again not to blame and again rightly furious.

The second half was a different story and Colchester were now confident, Pools were like rabbits in the headlights, the fact that the headlights were on an old lumbering Morris Minor made little difference. There was no discernible shape, players were arguing with each other and it was all a bit despairing. Flinders made another couple of excellent saves just after the break keeping us in the game but we offered little in the way of an attacking threat. By now the midfield were deep defending and even Howard was back at times. When we did get the ball there was no outlet as players were pinned into their own half.

It was inevitable that Colchester would get a third and Ibehre obliged, surrounded by our defenders he got a shot away that beat Flinders – game well and truly over.

After nearly an hour Monkhouse replaced Lynch, for me a strange decision as Lynch was the pick of a bad bunch. Monkhouse did little (nothing) to improve our attack. It’s interesting that scoring for Pools seems to mean the player is then dropped or substituted – see Poole, James, Walton, Monkhouse and now Lynch.

With a quarter of an hour left Poole came on for Murray. He actually won a couple of attacking headers, showed some enthusiasm but when in a goal scoring situation kept the ball far too long and had to play it back where the threat was long gone.

Now if you are thinking that there must be a ray of light, a glimpse of a recovery or at least one heroic display I’m afraid you would be mistaken. In the old days of struggle at the wrong end of the 4th Division we had some local lads, young wannabe’s and some journeymen, they were not the most skilful or the fittest but they played with a passion that I’ve not seen in the last few seasons. Maybe professionalism has changed the game in this way but today’s squad seemed indifferent and lacking any passion. It was embarrassing watching them at times.

There were just over 120 Pools supporters there and from their accents they were, like us, mostly exiles. I’m not surprised; the price of travelling and tickets plus programme, pies, drinks etc. makes it an expensive day, especially to see such a lacklustre display. There were less than 3,500 supporters in the ground which made it look empty despite it officially being able to hold just over 10,000.

So what of the future? Will we follow Colchester’s lead and sack the manager and if so who will be the replacement, Barron or a big name manager? Will they have the backing to get 3 players on loan especially one with the pedigree of Ibehre? And if so, why hasn’t Cooper been given that support. IOR appear to me to have taken their eye off the ball and seem to be more interested in buying the ground. However it’s their money and they have their goals to achieve. I just wish the team could achieve a few goals of their own.

Player’s ratings – purely subjective!

Flinders: 7. The only player who can come away from the game able with any credit

Baldwin: 4. Not a right back and I don’t think he has the stature to be a centre back either. Undoubtedly a talent and I’d play him as a midfielder in the Liddle role. He’d require expert coaching, which I’m afraid he’d not get at Pools.

Collins: 4. It must have been difficult playing as a lone central defender.

Hartley: 1. I’m being kind to him, the 1 was for getting his jrsey on the right way around. I’d not have him in the squad let alone the starting 11.

Horwood: 3. Pretty anonymous and compared to the oppositions left back was woeful.

Franks: 2. That was just for his good warm up, another anonymous player.

Murray: 4. Tried to keep things together, failed, looked tired.

Austin: 3. Looked out of place in midfield and unsure of his role.

Lynch: 5. The only player with any ideas or skill to try and put them into practice, great goal.

Sweeney: 3. The game passed him by, little opportunity to play his natural box to box game. Must be regretting not going to Huddersfield last year.

Howard: 2. Again, I’m being generous here. Won nothing in the air, painfully slow only one long range shot, seems to be shorter than I remember him (probably not his fault).

Monkhouse: 2. Added nothing when he came on, lacked passion probably his reaction to how he’s been managed.

Poole: 5. Only on for a quarter of an hour but showed some enthusiasm and a little skill.

Cooper: 1. Desperate, Invercockieleekie Thistle beckons.

For Colchester,
Ibehre: 8. Man of the match – 8,

Michael Rose: 7 Another good game against us. Colchester supporters hate him, and Turner wanted to sign him for us at the time we got Horwood.


POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM ahead of the game

I know the season isn’t very old, but I can never resist looking at the league tables above and below the one Pools are playing in, to see who we may be facing next term. The fate of the teams seeking promotion or trying to avoid relegation often isn’t sealed till the final day, and even later for those in the play-offs, but things are already starting to shape up.

What I dread most is seeing the ‘bad pennies’ return. Those teams who you were glad to see the back of when they went up or down, hoping you never had to face them again. For me the discrimination is usually based on geography – there’s nothing like the prospect of a long journey back from Brighton or Exeter when you’ve conceded late on to throw away a point or two.

I’m watching the progress of League Two pace-setters Gillingham in case Pools stay where we are, as they are the team I would least like to play again in the whole league. A dump of a ground in a town devoid of any decent pubs, too far away and one of those places we rarely get a result of any sort.

However, there are a few teams closer to home I’d prefer not to want to play in future. Elland Road was great to visit the first time we played there a few years ago, but the novelty soon wore off. I have to admit I was a bit narked when they finally made it into the Championship, but part of me was chuffed to bits that they wouldn’t darken our door for a season at least.

Not a million miles away from Leeds, the blue and white team of Sheffield are hanging above the relegation trapdoor, threatening to grace us with their overblown presence once again. I can’t work out what I dislike about them most – for nicking Chris Turner off us when we were looking unstoppable, the play-off final, the way a good number of their deluded fans seem to think they really are a big club who will shortly be reliving the glory days (what glory days though? I can only recall a couple of cup final defeats for them in the last 30 years or so), the way they lurch from one financial crisis to another whilst splashing the cash on transfer fees and wages, or the supremely annoying drummer that plies his trade during games at Hillsborough."I am far from alone when I say that I really miss our derby games with our poor cousins from down the road"

I’m pleased to see one of my main pet hate teams, Rushden and Diamonds, have dropped off the radar altogether. Sadly though, so too have Darlo. I am far from alone when I say that I really miss our derby games with our poor cousins from down the road. Other northern teams like Halifax and Scarborough are sorely missed too, and I hope that it isn’t too long before we see them back in the league again, even if they are in the guise of ‘phoenix’ clubs.

There are many teams I will up or down the divisions so that we have the chance of playing them, and I was chuffed to bits that Rochdale managed to finally make it out of the bottom rung a couple of years ago. I think I’m right in saying that after Darlo, they are the team we have played more than any other in the league. They only took two years to go back whence they came, but they are looking to bounce back, and I will cheer if they do.

We are long overdue a day out in York, possibly the best away fixture we’ve missed out on over the last few years. Hopefully it will be them getting promoted which will result in us sharing the same division though!

If I could have my dream division for Pools to play in, it would consist primarily of teams in the north and midlands, plus Orient, Barnet and Brentford thrown in for London trips. Basically anywhere that makes a good day out. Darlo would be in it, solely to fulfil the role of whipping boys, so too would Borer, so we can remind them that they wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Pools. None of the other teams making up the numbers would be one with a ‘new’ ground which is miles away from a good cluster of pubs, or those that are hard to get to via the train.

There are a couple of teams that would need to fall from their lofty perches in order to have the pleasure of playing Pools, but ten years ago who would have thought we’d have faced Leeds, Forest, Leicester, Charlton, Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday, QPR, Portsmouth, Coventry, Sheffield United etc in a league match? Or even Crawley and Stevenage come to think of it. A lot of things are possible in football, so one day the good people in charge of the fixture generator will hopefully have to sort this lot out:

Burton Albion
Cambridge United
Carlisle United
Crewe Alexandra
Darlo 1984?/2-4-6-8 motorway?
Leyton Orient
Lincoln City
Nottingham Forest
Notts County
Norwich City
Peterborough United
Port Vale
Sheffield United
West Brom
York City

BILL THE BIRO follows a thread

A few days ago I was browsing a Pools messageboard and I saw a new thread, with the title “Strange Place Names.” 

Someone had reported having driven through a place called “Mutley.” There then followed, after some banter about the Poolie who goes by that name, a succession of examples of other strange place names. One of them was a road named “Bell End”, in Wollaston, Northamptonshire.

Now, as it happens, I know that road, since I drive along it twice every day - it’s on my route to work. Three years ago it was a cause of some amusement when I first started going that way, but since then I’d not given it much thought until now. But in the last couple of days, every time I’ve gone through Wollaston (which, as you might expect, isn't pronounced Wollaston, but Woolerston), my thoughts have been wandering, to a couple of Pools matches.

Strange, you may think, but let me explain. Bell End is a very short road, only 100 yards long, but it forms part of the main route through the large village/small town, and just 50 yards down from it is the headquarters of Airwear International, better known as Doc Martens. And Max Griggs,who owns it, was the sugar daddy who funded Rushden and Diamonds’ meteoric rise. Once he pulled the plug, their fall was not only even more meteoric, but also terminal.

Currently their rather nice former ground is the home of Kettering Town, who are themselves only hanging on by their financial fingertips (they've just done a Darlo and gone down 2 divisions. Their Northants Senior Cup home match this month attracted a club record low attendance of... 34.)

"I remember being outside Elland Road trying to sell MB, and for one of the few times, deliberately avoiding any chance of the home fans even seeing it, let alone buying it!"But back in Max's sugar-daddying days, in 2003 he found his team vying with Pools for the championship of what was still then known as the basement division. And by coincidence the final game of that season was Rushden  and Diamonds versus Pools, with both teams already promoted, and the winners to become Champions. However, the slight disadvantage for Pools was that a draw would give it to Rushden. And of course that's what happened. We drew. They were Champions. And after Pools had been top of the league for almost the entire season, we had to politely applaud them as they were presented with the trophy and medals after the match.

The nearest we ever came to winning anything (if you don't count Cardiff).

Anyway, Max still runs Doc Martens from the white building near Bell End in the picture.

But Bell End reminds me of another Pools away game, this time a bit more recent. in 1997 Leeds United had come down to visit us in League One after having gone bust and been reincarnated in dubious circumstances which had allowed Ken Bates to remain in charge. At the time he, manager Dennis Wise and their fans were playing the "everyone's against us" card for all they were worth. So it was that Pools had to play at Elland Road in front of more than 20,000 baying Yorkshiremen (and a fair few Poolies) early in the season.

So for the edition which coincided with that match, we at Monkey Business decided to print one of our double-ended issues, with the second section being a spoof guide book of Leeds, thinly disguised as Leades. And for the spoof city's football team (whose dodgy history didn't go unmentioned), we gave its home as Bellend Road. I remember being outside Elland Road trying to sell MB, and for one of the few times ever, deliberately avoiding any chance of the home fans even seeing it, let alone buying it!

That match was one of the best I've ever seen Pools play. Pools dominated from start to finish, and apart from their two goals without reply, Leeds were hardly in it. Still it was good to be at a Pools league match in a famous stadium in front of over 26,000 people, and not disgrace ourselves, even if we lost.

So there you have it, two memorable Pools matches, both with connections to Bell End - and barely a mention of Ken Bates.

RUNNING MONKEY sees Pools play a Giant team

Pools 1 - The Blades 2

As usual one the “big “clubs, despite finding themselves in the wrong division once again, come to little old Hartlepool and expect to turn us over as a matter of course. Maybe I might be a bit hard on the Yorkshire giants who are legends in their own back yard. The one good thing about these visits is they usually fill the away end, and even this early in the season on a wet and windy Tuesday night they almost filled their allocation.

"Riding high but having drawn quite a few" says Ken on their form, but as with all the Giant sides, buying power always tells.

An early chance was gifted to Howard after the Blades' keeper hit the ball straight to him but his snap effort was blocked. It is noticeable in Giants games that early doors they like to make their presence felt and there was a rash of illegal challenges that they could not possibly get away with once the ref turned up. Baldwin Sweeney and Poole were the early recipients of this treatment, which was criminal."As the ref had still not turned up, the pushing and diving continued but our efforts were petering out."

A few of the Blades players could only be classed as divers, and again with the absent ref allowing this to go, it was tedious to watch the triple roll with accompanying scream going unpunished, in fact being rewarded. Kitson was the biggest culprit at conning the ref but maybe we are either too honest or too naive to practise this type of football but both Ken and I agreed we would not be comfortable watching our team cheat their way to success. They were fast on the break and played some sweeping passes but like Pools the final ball was not there. We were making chances and squandering them too so it was even until poor defending allowed Kitson a free header which he took great delight in celebrating with the Town end fans. But he is a ginger so you have to give him a bit of leeway.

Pools landed one on top of the net and another into the side netting. One chance looked as if we had equalised that hit the underside of the bar and had most of the home fans cheering but the ball was scrambled clear. Ned was pulling off some good saves as we started to buckle a little under the pressure as they went for the second goal.

We managed to get to half time and the consensus was, despite their goal, we were playing well enough and could possibly make a game of it, kicking down hill to the Town End. As the ref had still not turned up, the pushing and diving continued but our efforts were petering out. Both Poole, who lost possession darting into the box, and Sweeney could not manage to find the ball under his feet to get a shot off from four yards, left the fans wondering ifs it was ever going to happen.

I watched Poole in the warm up and he was the only player not to beat the second string keeper and his efforts during the game were little better. To be fair it was one of those games when nothing dropped for Pools on the night. We could have had four if only we had that little touch of luck.

The ref at last turned up and duly produced his card to the divers and the cuddlers, booking four of them in the game, albeit a little late, as we thought the damage was done. The wayward official made one of the daftest decisions I have seen even at the Vic, when Monky was fouled but managed to get the ball through and we were in a good attacking position. He blew up and gave a dropped ball on the centre circle.

Pools were pressing now and playing some good stuff, enough to set panic in the Blades' rear guard. Stevie Howard scored his first goal for Pools as he rose at the back post to thump a cracking header past the keeper and take two defenders with him. This was the only time in the game that he escaped the two players he had carried all game, one on his back and one round his waist. The celebration in front of the town end was something special as he clenched his fists and roared at the home fans as they applauded his effort.

Sadly once again we were undone on the break after we had pegged them back looking for a winner. A great effort by Pools but the visitors’ quality was the difference on the day.


As I write this piece, we’ve helped Colchester get out of the bottom four only to be dumped there ourselves. It’s difficult at the moment to see how we’re going to get out of the mire. 

A defence that’s leaking in a sackful of goals and an attack that can’t score goals. I did think that the signing of Steve Howard would solve the latter problem but it’s the same old story. Howard himself isn’t doing too badly, despite not scoring any goals - he’s not getting the support which he needs from those round him.

Tony Sweeney, Neil Austin and Paul Murray seem to have gone off the boil and so the problems pile up. Yes, we did go into the loan market for Craig Lynch - and he repaid in kind by scoring at Colchester. Now that Neal Cooper’s established good relations with Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Newcastle, how about asking them if they’ve got any defenders who can bring stability to the back four - if only in the short term?

One player who has proved to be a good signing is Jonathan Franks, and his strikes against Carlisle and Shrewsbury show that he’s got an eye for goal. My biggest disappointment is that we don’t seem to be making more of Luke James. In last month’s MB, I offered the view that he should be starting alongside Steve Howard. Come on, let’s give it a try.

The one player who has come out of the shambles of the last few weeks with head held high is Scott Flinders. The way things are going, we could lose him in the next transfer window. The scouts casting their eyes over Pools will have taken note. The other downside to all this is that it’s affecting the gates - the morale of the supporters can only go down so far before they start voting with their feet.

September has certainly been a month where things have been happening. First, there was the Hillsborough Independent Panel who exonerated the Liverpool supporters from any blame on that fateful day in April 1989. The blame has been put squarely on the police, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, Sheffield City Council and the Football Association. The families of the 96 who died have now got the facts and hopefully it can only be a matter of time before they get justice.

I cannot help be moved by the dignity of the relatives of those who died at Hillsborough. An internet campaign is now apparently under way to nominate one of the leading campaigners, Margaret Aspinall, as Woman of the Year. I cannot think of a more deserving honour.
"Remember Tony Blair and his attachment to The Mags? I don’t think he’s been near the place since he left 10 Downing Street"
One of the problems of that particular period was the culture emanating from government (and others) that footy fans were potential hooligans and had to be controlled by the issuing of such things as identity/membership cards. The Secretary of the Football Association just before Hillsborough was a guy by the name of Ted Croker. He ticked a few boxes - playing the game at a reasonably high level and then becoming a successful businessman. At one time, a retiring FA secretary was awarded a knighthood and the expectation was that this might befall Ted Croker. However, one evening he was attending a reception at 10 Downing Street and he was handbagged by Margaret Thatcher. “What are we going to do about your football hooligans, Mr. Croker?” Thatcher is reported to have asked. Back came the reply, “They’re not my hooligans, Mrs Thatcher, they’re your hooligans who are latching themselves on to the game of football”. Thatcher stormed off and in those few words, Ted Croker buggered up his chances of getting a knighthood.

All this is different now, and those with political and financial power can’t resist getting their grubby hands on the game of football, particularly where the bog standard Premier League is concerned. It seems to be a prerequisite for political leaders and leading businessmen to parade their loyalties when it comes to footy. Remember Tony Blair and his attachment to The Mags? I don’t think he’s been near the place since he left 10 Downing Street.

This now begs the question: how many of you get your phone and broadband from BT? I certainly do and on 13th September I nearly choked on my cup of tea and my cornflakes. That was when I opened the Daily Telegraph newspaper and saw the headline “BT raises prices as it pays millions to show football”. The opening paragraphs asserted “About 10 million BT customers face price rises of up to 25 per cent for phone calls and broadband months after the company spent £738 million on a surprise move into football broadcasting. From January next year, the price of phone calls, line rental and broadband will rise by up to 5.9 per cent, more than twice the rate of inflation, which currently stands at 2.6 per cent… BT’s price rises will lead to speculation that households are paying the price for its move into football”.

Although, BT have denied there’s a link between the two, I’m very sceptical. At least if you don’t want to help fill the coffers of Premier League clubs you can refuse to get Sky; this latest development, however, starts to link everyday things which some might regard as a necessity. I am a customer of BT for telephone and broadband facilities - not as fodder for subsidising the bog standard Premier League. So, I’ll have to put my thinking cap on.

And then there’s the John Terry affair. Frankly, I think it had gone on long enough. Mind you, the original problem was that the court case was held back until after Euro 2012 - surely, the justice system can work better than this. Can you imagine a Poolie being charged with speeding and asking for the court case to be delayed because he’s off to an away match? No chance of that being agreed to - why should the former England captain be treated any differently?

Finally, there’s the question of Princess Kate’s topless photographs. How can this be linked into our beautiful game? Perhaps a post on Facebook provides the answer. “The French have confirmed that they printed the topless pics of Kate Middleton in retaliation for us sending Joey Barton. It’s clearly a case of t*t for tw*t”.

Anyway, as I’ve said before, don’t get too despondent and keep the faith. We’re not as badly off as Darlo and Glasgow Rangers.    


RUNNING MONKEY sees Pools get a point

Pools 2  - Shrewsbury 2

A home game after a thrashing is a very strange place to feel elation. Yet today we had two reasons to celebrate

 No 1. The substitute ref for today’s game was non other than Mr Boyeson, the much maligned official that has history with us that generates a lot of angst amongst the faithful, so much so that we were taking odds on which Hartlepool player would fall foul of his red card before the end of the day. Apart from a fair few poor decisions and a couple of cards he managed to get through the game without adding to his tally of war crimes committed against the Pool.

No2. was not so demanding, The fact that Mr Radio Tees himself was giving full commentary on the game as the Smoggies had played last night. I was tempted to go back home just so I could listen to Ali Brownlee.

Three changes from the side that was thrashed at PNE saw Aussie, Monky and Walton all dropped for the game but all three options on the bench. My mate Ken is a deep thinker on the subject of Pools and commented on the fact that last season Aussie played every minute of every game and this season after only eight games he has been injured, banned and dropped. "Why?", we ask ourselves. 

One thing that is noticeable is how many of the players are running out of steam late in the game. Ok you can excuse the older players but not the younger set who seem to pick up niggling little injuries. Have our team's preparations for games been altered at all during the closed season. Answers please on an unclaimed lottery ticket to the editor.
"Mr Radio Tees himself was giving full commentary on the game as the Smoggies had played last night. I was tempted to go back home just so I could listen to Ali Brownlee"

A loud shrill on the whistle signalled the start of the game, and I thought at the time, Boyeson would have to have a whistle louder than anyone else as he likes to be noticed. I must say that he had probably his best game at the Vic in a long time - simply because we finished with a full team - but that does not excuse his willingness to antagonise the locals. Poole was the first to try his luck but hit the keeper with his shot.

 Ken and I were debating the time Pools were taking to get a cross in, when you see players continually laying the ball back then taking it again and laying it back it gets a bit frustrating and I was just about to tell Ken the benefits of this type of play when up pops Franks with a classic across-the-goalmouth shot that hit the side netting, putting him leading top scorer with two. Shrews came straight back at us with their long ball tactics, which we often copied throughout the game but as I said to Ken "it's ok, as they started it". 

A great diving save by Ned was knocked back into the net but thankfully the flag was up for the attacker stood on the back stick when the first shot came in. Murray was not having his best half and gave the ball away too easily when a little patience was needed, but you have to give him his due - if he makes a mistake he really puts himself about to right his wrong. Younger players please take note. 

A free kick on the edge of the box gave Shrews a chance and they bundled the ball into the net squaring the game up. Just before the break Murray made a diagonal run across the pitch and laid the ball up for Howard who tested the keeper who had to push the ball on top of the net, but Howard had been ruled offside again. At the other end Ned made a fantastic save from a free kick right on half time. It had been an interesting half with a draw being about the right result.

Shrews came out second half full of running and were making good inroads down the Milhouse side and Hartley was working overtime keeping them at bay. Pools finally started to up the pressure and were having a great spell but despite all the pressure lacked that final ball. Murray and Poole both tested the keeper. Poole, getting the ball caught under his feet in an almighty scramble in the box just could not get a foot in to stab home his shot. Lynch had a great effort blocked by the massed ranks as Shrews were under pressure. 

Luke James came on for Poole and showed some real pace. It beats me as to why Coops does not start with Luke. He seems to be more of a threat than Poole when he comes on, although Poole had a decent game today. We had a nightmare moment about ten minutes from time as Pools, attacking in numbers, found Franks open in the box and in that position both Ken and I agreed we would have slotted home a goal or at least tested the keeper, although I differed slightly from Ken's shot direct. I would have dragged the ball back and placed it wide of the keeper. 

We were still discussing this move when they scored. Franks dithered and tried to hoist the ball to the waiting Howard who nodded it down to Luke who could only touch the ball up in the air and the break away was on for the Shrews and disgruntled Poolies were heading for the gate. 

Monky came off the bench and promptly hit a superb volley into the net. A well taken goal to mark the five thousandth goal for Pools to give us a well deserved point and probably ease pressure on Cooper after last week.