it's all getting too much for BILLY'S CONTRACT

I have been following Pools since before colour television was invented. I have seen it all in that time span. Poor teams, bad teams, dreadful teams and unlucky teams. Over the years I have seen my team been beaten, thrashed and humiliated. At times it has been heart breaking and frustrating nailing one colours to Hartlepool United's mast, however today is the day which ranks amongst my low points supporting Pools.

Today we got beaten 1-0 at home against Preston North End. A team who are at best very average. Why are my hackles up? This season I almost came to accept that Pools would be beaten on a week-to-week basis and was preparing for life in league division two. Then a minor miracle occurs, Pools do the unthinkable and beat Sheffield United 3-2 at Bramall Lane. Talk about being on a high. Bring on Preston, take 3 points from them, and then we are within striking distance of the rest of the relegation pack. The lads must be buzzing.

I was convinced that after the Sheffield result Pools would come out of the traps like rabid dogs that had not seen meat for a month, and tear into North End, leaving them reeling and begging for mercy. What I witnessed was a spineless half-hearted effort devoid of any passion whatsoever. We rarely troubled Preston at all until Scotty Flinders went up front and caused havoc in front of our opponents' goal. We have reverted back to playing hoof ball from the back which was bread and butter for the Preston defence, who mopped everything up. We had no width and most balls into the box came straight down the middle from our central defenders. I could not understand the logic of playing Neil Austin in midfield - he looks like a full back playing in midfield. In my opinion Andy Monkhouse should have come on for the injured Walton instead of Austin - he would have posed more of an attacking threat (still, Austin is a better option than Luscombe). "Bring on Preston, take 3 points from them, and then we are within striking distance of the rest of the relegation pack. The lads must be buzzing."

John Hughes’ other two substitutions and their timings of the changes were strange. Poole replaced the tiring and battered Charlie Wyke. Poole is not a match winner, nor does he change the course of a game. Although I am not his biggest fan, Andy Monkhouse who was still on the bench would have been a better option.

Luke James was brought on in place of Jonathan Franks in the 83rd minute, which is hardly time for him to make any impact. Franks should have been subbed twenty minutes earlier as he had totally drifted out of the game. The player who should have been subbed to my mind was Anthony Sweeney as his contribution to this game, and a good many others was negligible. He needs a spell on the bench in order for him to regain his confidence.

I could go on but I am depressed enough writing about today's showing, a match which could have turned our season around if some passion and effort had been applied. One Poolie who was standing behind me summed up today's performance to perfection when Neil Austin took to the pitch - he shouted over to the bench “are we trying to defend our one nil deficit?”

On a sour note it was sad to hear Simon Walton booed off by a small section of the crowd today. Yes he did not have the best of games (5 passes in a row going astray) but booing him will not do his confidence any good. In my case I just did not applaud him as he left the pitch.