It was absolutely hoying it down as I drove to Walsall, and it put me in mind of many travels to watch Pools in shite weather the past, a lot of them with very positive outcomes. Luckily I don’t seem to have fallen prey to the clich√© of seeing your team play crap and lose on cold and wet days very often. I did have a feeling of quiet optimism about the game, as the margin of our defeats was shrinking by the game.

Because of the heavy rain, the traffic on the M6 was moving predictable slowly, and it was going to be touch and go whether I would get there in time for kick off or not. I think I would have made it, had it not been for someone in a Rover in my way, driving through the suburbs of Walsall at just over 20 miles per hour, seemingly also heading to the ground. Luckily, after a mile or so, I found a spot where I could overtake safely, and go to the ground a minute before 3.

I managed to park in my ‘secret’ spot once again, and legged it through the rain to the away end. Well, I thought it was the away end, as there were big signs above the turnstiles saying ‘Away Fans’. The turnstile doors were all shut, so I gave them a good few kicks to see if there was any life within. After 30 seconds or so, someone fluorescent appeared to let me know the away end was round the corner now.

I scarpered around said corner to find an open turnstile. The old gadgie confirmed that I was in the right place, and informed me that the score was still goalless. Once inside, I spotted Andy Ramalamadingdong, who informed me that nowt interesting had happened yet. I was just glad that we hadn’t conceded.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been to see Pools at the Bescot, probably about 8 or 9, and I don’t think I’ve ever managed to find a seat where the view isn’t restricted. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing when watching the current Pools side though.

After an even first ten minutes or so, Walsall began to turn the screw, and it was a great joy to see us win a penalty after half an hour. Steve Howard latched on to a very careless back-pass, and took it round the keeper who caught the ‘flying’ Pools forward. Definite penalty, which was tucked away nicely by Evan Horwood. Some wag behind me commented that the keeper should have just let Howard have a shot, as he probably would have missed the target anyway. Harsh but funny.
Walsall were evidently embarrassed to be losing to the potential 2013-14 League Two Champions, and stepped on the gas again. Plenty of attacks had us at sixes and sevens, with long range shots whistling past the Pools goal. We managed to hang on until half time, and for the first time in ages the Bovril tasted sweet. Well, not really sweet, as that would be minging, but tasty in a satisfied-to-be-one-up sort of way.
"...the side collectively seems to have less pace than a one-legged tortoise"
Deep down though we all knew it wouldn’t last, and a few minutes after the restart Walsall levelled. Sam Collins generously headed a speculative cross back across the face of our  goal straight to the feet of a grateful Walsall striker, and despite a good first save from Flinders the ball was eventually bundled in.

The couple of hundred or so Poolie faithful sat and awaited their fate. Except it didn’t come. The game became quite end to end, with a few potential breakaway attacks for Pools. They didn’t come to much, as the side collectively seems to have less pace than a one-legged tortoise, but we did have shots on target, and managed to keep Walsall at bay.

The second half was noticeable for one bizarre thing – Howard took an elbow to the face which floored him, and despite it being a head injury, the ref didn’t stop play. He eventually left the field for treatment, and when play restarted, he waited patiently on the touchline as you do, waiting for the signal from the ref to come back on the pitch. Except the ref didn’t wave him back on, and Howard had to stand like a lemon for a good few minutes until play stopped again.

The ref spoke to Howard when he did finally come back on, and I can only assume that the ref wanted to check that there was no blood. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Howard had lumped him, such was his frustration, but after their conversation he ambled away in a placated manner.
The final whistle sounded, and avoiding defeat felt like a victory. In reality, if Walsall hadn’t been on such a poor run themselves we would have been thumped again, but the record books will show that Pools earned an away point.

I can’t see it making much difference, as it would take a miracle to keep us up. Never mind the feeding of the 5000, it’s the placating of the 3000 or so diehard Pools fans that needs to be performed. All eyes will no doubt be on the retained list over the summer, to see if we get the right fresh blood in to mount a promotion challenge next season. At the moment the squad looks anaemic at best, and a total transplant seems to be in order. Nurse, please pass the scalpel to Dr Hughes.