RUNNING MONKEY sees things go from worse to worse

I think this was the first time we have met Crawley, but if it isn’t I would expect someone to put me right.

Before the game my mate Ken, ever the optimist, had a strange aura about him. At first I thought it was the curry he had had for lunch. He insisted he had his ritual fritter and chips but it turned out it was Mick who stands behind us that had had the curry, which explains why he left with twenty five minutes on the clock.

I realised that Ken’s aura was far more serious when, without a ball being kicked in the game, he announced that Pools would not come within three goals of the visitors today. I put this down to the fact that Ken had watched the warm up, which I deliberately missed out on after the last home game warm up, when the shooting practice was abysmal and continued into the game. I felt a little buoyed by the write up on the Crawley site where the manager stated he told the fans to expect a tough game at the Vic. I bet he was pleasantly surprised today.

Three changes today by Mr Cooper, with Hartley suffering anything between a virus, an infection, or virus-infected blisters, according to the rumours, so take your choice. Murray was injured and RH was dropped, making way for Sam Collins, Poole and the enigma that is Simon Walton.
"Today there was only one brief patch where we looked like we might know what we were doing"
As you all know, I do not go in for slating players, just honest criticism, but Walton has been a total disappointment since he joined in the summer. His first two touches today were very poor passes giving away possession on both occasions, which did little for his standing with the fans.

Our first effort on goal came on eleven minutes when Noble blasted a ball over the Town End stand. Walton got his first assist of the season with a poor header from him which led to the Crawley goal, a twenty-five yard drive that Ned had no chance with. Ned made up for it in the next Crawley attack, blocking a close-range shot that Baldwin scrambled away.

Aussie managed to get a long-range shot in but it was too easy for the untroubled visiting keeper. Once again Ned was called on to again to make a great save as he palmed away a vicious cross as Pools were under real pressure. Spontaneous clapping broke out all around the ground at twenty-five minutes as the fans remembered the fifth anniversary of the death of Michael Maidens, whose parents attended the game today. Nice to see the visiting manager Richie Barker joining in with the salute to the former player.

Holden and Poole linked up for a great run down the left but we wasted the corner that came from their effort. Crawley did have the ball in the net but it was ruled offside, which even the Town End fans thought was a little unjust.

Consensus at half time was “we are goosed”, but as I tried to explain to those that would listen, despite Crawley looking by far the better team, with the wind on our backs and kicking down bank in the second half we could make a game of it. To prove my point we won a free kick on the edge of the box which astonishingly Walton lined up to take. The man who could not even make a forward pass was being trusted to have a go at a free kick. As it happened he had two shots in succession. The first rebounded off the wall to him and of course his second shot did exactly the same, causing very slight irritation to the Crawley wall.

Pools continued to waste possession and made very little impact on the Crawley defence. Aussie took over from Walton on the next free kick and at least tested the keeper, who made a diving save to palm the ball wide. We took the corner, which was cleared upfield and once again they tested Ned, as the defence was so poor and the midfield non-existent.

Even under the pressure we have been under this season we have at times played some good football in patches. Today there was only one brief patch where we looked like we might know what we were doing, but this spell was cut short when a Crawley player went down in their box injured and took a long time to get to his feet. Chants of ‘Going Down’ from the Town End rang out as the faithful turned on their team after a dismal performance.

Crawley did deserve the points; they played the better football, they were fast on the break and direct whereas Pools were so predictable, and some poor application led to another defeat which I think could end the reign of Neale Cooper at the Vic. Which in my opinion would be a shame.

OK people look at results and one win in about a dozen games looks bad on any CV, but I think some of the under-performing players are as much to blame for our plight as is the manager.

On the way home I walked down Clarence Road with a group of jubilant Crawley fans who between them were rating their trip to the Vic. On hearing one rate our chips as six out of ten I asked him how he would rate our team. His answer was four. So we have the official condemnation where a bag of chips rates higher than our team. Just how bad can it get?