Showing posts from November, 2013
Rotherham United - As I Seen It


Pools 1, Rotherham 2   Johnstone's Paint Cup  Tuesday November 12th 2013

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic


The Yorkshire team brought a good following to the Vic for this cup game and once again the sage of Ditchburn was not a happy chappy with the chosen one in the middle Mr Drysdale. I will save any comments for him till I cool off a bit. 

The same Pools team as Saturday started for Pools, including young Duckworth. This kid is a great player and has been every time I have seen him play; he has great commitment to the team for a youngster. 

He set off on one of his Jinky runs at the opposition leaving some for dead as he swivelled and side-stepped challenges, found himself in the box and played a quick one two with Walton but was outnumbered before he could get a decent shot off. Poole charging down the left hit a screamer just wide of the back stick as Pools took the game to the visitors in cavalier style. 

Rotherham looked a slick side and a quick back-heel caught out the Pools defence but we managed to clear it. Jack made a superb tackle to thwart the next attack. Rotherham took an early lead from their first corner when the big striker Eaves got a free header past Ned which was disappointing after a good start. 

Pools rallied quickly after the goal and Jack had a great header that was blocked and Monky had a header hooked off the line, and a great through ball from Dolan found Poole in space but he was soon mobbed out of it and his shot blocked by the keeper, as Pools piled on the pressure. 

Poole was doing well but was continually hacked down or bundled off the ball, but I have to say I didn't know that a team could find so many different ways to cheat in a game. It was endemic throughout the side - a cynical edge to their game to stop Pools playing football once they took the lead. The same treatment was meted out to any Pools player that looked a threat to them. To watch a fellow professional jump into a player going up for a high ball and to turn him over in the air was criminal but they continued unabated throughout the game as Mr Drysdale had lost the plot, allowing it to go on from the start of the game. So much for free flowing football.

Pools did get some reward from a free kick given again to Poole. Some good one-two passing between Monky and Luke gave Monky a goal to level things up and it was thoroughly deserved for the attacking display employed by Pools. Mr Drysdale has form against us, once having had to be escorted to his car by police, and was never going to do us any favours. After the game I found that recently he had been dropped from the list after a shocking display at a Bradford game. As fans we should never blame all our troubles on an official, but to have two penalties turned down in a cup game and to watch a cynical calculated assault on your players, aided and abetted by a ref without any response from the official until it is too late, is galling. Is it not time these paid crooks were weeded out of the game.

To add to our woes, Rotherham took a lead into half time with a speculative shot that hit a body and was diverted past Ned, who had no chance, with the Rotherham player taunting the Town End fans, again unpunished by the officials. The Sage was incandescent with rage explaining that the FA were a bunch of vodka soaked old farts if they can claim you book a player for taking off a shirt but not for intimidating opposition fans. Which of those actions could lead to a riot? The Town End responded with"You lucky Yorkshire bastards."

The second half was a bit like the Alamo for Rotherham as Pools attacked in numbers. with Franks, Monky, Poole and Luke all pushing Pools forward and again getting clattered at every opportunity, but at least now the cards were being shown, albeit too late in the day.

Jack was unlucky, storming in to meet a cross that just skimmed his head and went wide. Another message sent to Mr Walton, who was taking most of the dead ball kicks, tried two corners that were totally wasted when we needed it most, both of them not even making it into the box. “If you can’t take a corner then F OFF’’ - my sentiments exactly as he is back to showboating. Stealing six inches at a corner in front of your own fans is childish if you balls up the kick. In a skirmish he had when playing another blind ball to no one he tripped up and you should have seen the dirty look he gave the clump of grass that had just robbed him of the ball and left him on his arris.

I have to point the finger at the discipline of some of our players but it is understandable in the circumstances Even Higgy was warned and spoken to by Drysdale for voicing his comments. We do get wound up by some teams easily and we are far better than that in a playing sense; we were the better team on the day without the luck.

All our effort came to little reward as Luke was chopped down in the box. Sweeney had a volley over that should have at least been on target so we are out of the cup once again.
"I didn't know that a team could find so many different ways to cheat in a game."

One from the Ditchburn sage at half time while watching the subs warm up was: "This lad Andy Pringle is a good player - he makes some crisp passes."

I have to say in my day players turned up in brown footy boots smelling of dubbin. If a lad turned up to play in yellow boots he would have been called a puff, well today Rotherham had at least seven puffs playing for them. I suppose it is true what they say about Yorkshire men.

Monky played a blinder today, and from the sage again another gem: A seventeen year old Andy Monkhouse played for Rotherham, and scored on his debut against Hartlepool United. So no wonder he rattled them all night and it was good to watch.

Two ex-Poolies also on show today: Skarz and Nardiello (who was still invisible - good job they did not bring their Shearer on).

Notts County - As I Seen It


Pools 3, Notts County 2   FA Cup Round 1  Saturday November 9th 2013

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic


Another sunny day at the Vic for today's encounter that started with a minute’s silence in respect of Armistice Day tomorrow. The Ditchburn Poolie was not happy with a pink ball but rules are rules. 

What upset him even more was that Karl Boyseson was the man in the middle. Like most referees that come to the Vic the Ditchburn has usually done his homework on them and decided from the off that he would have been better going off rabbit hunting than staying put. I tempted him with a concession ticket that he was so pleased with that I almost saw a glimmer of a smile but in his case it was probably wind. 

So the return of Gary Liddle to the Vic, the majestic midfielder. A lot of Poolies thought was such a shame that we let him leave. Well I have news for Mr Liddle, who was now playing at full back: “WE DON’T NEED YOU ANNYYYMMMMOOOORRE." 

Sam was the only change to the Pools side after Burgess collected another card last week, but as I said to the Ditchburn, he looks very calm and relaxed now he is not under any stress of playing every week. One prominent Poolie said to me after the game that it is probably because he has not got the liability of Hartley alongside him now. 

A story I heard before the game was that Sam is now sole coach to the defensive set up at Pools and I must say he has found his vocation. After a run of seven wins in eight games it looks as if Sam is earning his corn. 

Early doors Luke was unlucky not to latch onto a through ball into the box. Franks was also free in the middle but shot well wide of the target. 

As you know of late I have supported the improvement in the play of Walton, but when he screamed again at Duckworth, who failed to control a ball that went out of play, I have to say once again, "have a look at the video son and see how many mistakes you make in a game and you win the coconut hands down every time." It is time he grew up and behaved like a senior player and should take a lead from Aussie who went to Duckworth and put an arm round his shoulder and had a quiet word. I have some devastating news for Mr Walton - Duckworth brings far more to our team than he does, and the majority of the crowd feel the same, apart from the lady who wears her lucky knickers. 

I have to complain about the physicality that Notts County used throughout the game, especially early doors when in the first ten minutes we could have lost both Aussie and Poole, who were constantly targeted with very physical challenges that the man in the middle was blind to. 

The Ditchburn has a theory that if you are an official and you see this going on and you fail to act then you are bringing a rod to your own back. I have a theory that the men in the middle are in the main useless, which is why they are practising their art at this level, and as for the linos, they may as well be in the stand when this type of ref is on the park. Rant over - back to the game. 

Aussie tried a shot that was deflected and had the keeper squirming till it landed on top of the net. Walton must have heard me when he took a corner as he did it right this time and Jack made an even better job of his fantastic header that made it one nil to the Hartlepool. 

Notts were straight back in the game with a fluke of a goal from the corner when Dolan hit a clearing ball that rebounded off a Notts player, leaving Ned with no chance of stopping it. The strong arm tactics were still evident as Poole, on a run down the Millhouse, was rattled from behind. I was in the Town end and saw the knee go into the thigh leaving him in pain on the deck and Mr Boyeson, who was stood over the incident, saw nothing. 

Liddle made his first run into the box just before half time and made a good chip from the edge of the six yard box and Ned had to be at his best to block a clear header from the attacker. Pools were playing some good football and really gelling as a team, both Monky and Baldwin going close. 

This is the point were the Ditchburn made McGregor, the busy midfielder who is on loan from Celtic, the man of the match. I tried to explain that it was not even half time yet but he insisted, as only the Ditchburn can. The fact that McGregor actually saved a certain goal against Pools won the argument for the Ditchburn when he raced in on a shot from their forward that had Ned beat, and managed to wrap his foot round the ball and kick it clear. I thought the object of this exercise was to claim a goal he had not scored as if it was not over the line then it would have been if he had left it alone! So in Ditchburn tonight Mr McGregor is the toast of the town. 

Monky must be on something as the lad is s*** hot lately and gets everywhere, shooting for fun and tackling back, and laying balls off, and winning more than his fair share of headers. For me this was the m.o.m. performance. 

Duckworth is becoming a Poolie favourite and if the club have not signed or even signed this lad to a contract I am bringing a gun to the next home game. His jinking run from the edge of our box to almost the penalty spot at the other end was a joy to watch. He must have left five men in his wake and hit a power drive that the keeper could only block and Luke popped up to slot the ball home to make it two one lead against a very good side who were dangerous on the break and played some good football themselves. 

I thought back to a couple of seasons ago when Pools came out the second half and invariably gave away a goal. Well I hope those days are long gone as we took the fight to them from the off. Notts decided to bring on the really big men to support the big men they already had out and Showunmi is one of the biggest you will see. He is huge and against Pools today hugely ineffective as he just pushed and shoved anyone near to him. "I have a theory that the men in the middle are in the main useless, which is why they are practising their art at this level, and as for the linos, they may as well be in the stand when this type of ref is on the park"

We did have a spell where we went out of the game, again because our lack of ability to clear the ball or even set up some play to get clear, and it kept coming back at us. Once again playing away at home games we let them think they were getting the upper hand, which they were, and the pressure was on. Then we hit them on the break. Dolan, with a free kick, hit the post and Franks hit the rebound back in and it was blocked, but fell to the goal machine and Luke made no mistake, making it 3-1 to the Hartlepool. 

I must have told you in the past that that is my favourite score, and always my prediction to every game we play, so trust Notts to ruin it by sneaking a late goal to make it a 3-2 win for Pools. I read on that twittertweeter thingy that Simon Walton had never won a cup game before. Well “HE” never won this one either but we will let him off if he stops clutching his head in his hands when he makes a balls-up and just gets on with the game. Try chasing the ball and winning it back, Simon, that is what good players like Duckworth do. You are a footballer son, not a bloody actor, so act like one. 

As I said earlier, Monky was my m. o. m., but it was given to Luke and I have no argument with that as he is becoming a top class player who must be back in the sights of the big clubs again. 

Duckworth has been a revelation and is probably also attracting interest from other teams; his work rate is second to none. Just a mention to Poole who also had a very good game. There was one incident where he chased a nothing ball down to the line with three defenders on him. He juggled the ball up and along the line, showing great skill and even won a corner. 

Monky was booked again and looks to be up for another ban, Ned made a save and dropped to his knees on the ball and a Notts player ran and tried to hack the ball through him. Monky took exception to that and pushed him over. Probably the best thing Boyeson did all day was to drag the attacker back down field and booked him too, after booking Monky. 

Now we have a team that we can cheer and be proud of so bring it on Rotherham and Coventry.

Dagenham and Redbridge - As I Seen It


Pools 2, Dagenham and Redbridge 1   League 2 Saturday November 2nd 2013

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic


As you know, we only deal in facts and the Ditchburn Poolie gave me this one before the kick off. The ref was a t*** and that rhymes with cat, rat or fat. The reasoning behind the slander was a premonition of the facts by the Ditchburn.

He claimed this feller would book more Poolies than Daggers today. Guess what - he was dead right; we won, four to two. As you all know we are not a dirty side but today we probably deserved at least three of the four cards shown, and that is sad, for the discipline in the side is on the slide.

One other fact of the day was that Mr. Howard is missing from the bench. Please make up you own rumour on that one.

Walton had the first real shot of the game, which was pushed away for a corner that was cleared. Redbridge had a good chance when they broke away and their attacker had men in the box but he was too greedy and lost the chance with a poor shot. I had just said to my mate Ken that we had edged the first ten minutes which was good to see, then we got the breakthrough, and a great move it was too. Duckworth, working hard down the flank had his shot blocked and it dropped for Luke, who fired in again and Poole raced in at the far post to give Pools a well-deserved lead.

Duckworth picked up a ball and as he moved forward he was totally wiped out. Ok the twit gave us a free kick but this ploy by Dagenham became monotonous with very little chastising coming from the officials. Walton had a good shot blocked from a corner and on a rare break Dagenham was clean through and the attacker brought a great save out of Ned. He is in good form.

Jack came to his rescue shortly after when he blocked a shot on the line. One of the funniest sights you will see in football was the Dagenham mob-handed, set piece charge from the edge of the box, all hoping to meet the free kick but sadly for them the man taking the free kick got his wires crossed and his effort was nowhere near as good as the organized multiple charge on goal.

Murphy was the star man in the visitors' team, another fact from the Ditchburn, but he was marshalled throughout by some great defensive play, especially from the Burgess and Baldwin pairing. Lets hope they can pair up in the cup game.

Monky picked up another booking and it did look like he left a foot in, giving the opposition player the chance to do a double salko with pike. It definitely impressed the lino stood two feet from him, who waved furiously for the twit to take some punitive action against the Pools man. The consensus at half time was we deserved the lead on the play so far and really could turn over what looked like a decent side.

Second half, Pools, kicking downhill, looked as determined as ever and really went for them, but the Dagenham winger who was very quick and slippery, out-foxed Aussie and raced past him, hitting a very good shot across the goal that Ned had little chance of stopping. Once again at the sight of an opposition goal, Pools' energy wilted and Dagenham really came into the game."...we probably deserved at least three of the four cards shown, and that is sad, for the discipline in the side is on the slide."

A foul on Poole, who had to leave the field for stitches, was not penalized - in fact he gave a bounce ball. I do not ever remember Pools winning a bounce ball and that was the case today as the Daggers raced up field with the ball. It was becoming obvious that the visitors had us rattled and were really going for it. We struggled to stay with them for most of the half and discipline went out of the window. Moves were breaking down too easily and we looked susceptible to the pacy attack of the visitors.

Aussie made a fantastic tackle to rob their striker of the ball almost on the penalty spot, which gave the team a lift. Walton had a rush of blood and took out one player waist high, for which he was duly booked. I still have my doubts about him, as he is supposedly a senior player and should show more leadership. There was an incident in the first half where Duckworth sliced a ball out of play and Walton was ranting like a lunatic at him. On balance of play Walton made more errors then most and he loses the ball far too easily.

The twit waved play on after Luke was head-locked in the box on a run and Sweeney later went close with a shot after sprinting into the box unmarked. We rallied late in the half helped by some good work by Duckworth who is becoming a valuable player for Pools. There was some good work in the Pools defence and in particular Ned kept us in the game saving a free kick from the edge of the box that he must have seen very late.

Pools won a corner on the Millhouse side and Dolan sent in a great ball that Monky headed home and it seemed like an age before the gentleman in black pointed to the centre circle, giving pools a 2-1 lead. During the nervous second half we had four full backs on to see the game out. We thoroughly deserved the win, and this is one of those games we would have lost in the past. The dark clouds were gathering over the Vic and lightning lit up the sky as the game came to a close with both sides having chances.

Anyone fancy a run in the cup?

Scunthorpe - As I Seen It


Scunthorpe United 1, Pools 0   League 2 Saturday October 26th 2013

Match report by ALREET at Glanford Park


So, it's on to Scunny then, a fixture that recalls contrasting memories. Not a lucky place, I know, but I did manage to see us win there last season. 

That said, I recall the bizarre match where we were walloped but still managed to win promotion at the same time. Then there was a fixture on New Years Day many moons back played on a really miserable afternoon at the Old Show Ground.

I also remember walking from the High Street to the Old Show Ground when I suddenly developed a one-off "sciatica" type pain down one leg. I spent the game wandering around on the terrace to keep it moving as it was bloody painful standing still. I was crapping myself at the thought of the three hour train journey home but, fortunately, it eased about halfway through the journey.

Anyway, prior to the kick off on Saturday, they had the usual pre-match 'entertainment' which included a best of three question and answer session between two rival supporters. Having got his nose one nil in front, the Pools lad was asked; "When Hartlepool's most famous manager, Brian Clough, was first appointed, what did he say? Was it (a) "Where is Hartlepool?", (b) "I don't like the place" or (c) " I've got a pet monkey so I can't go there"". He opted for (b) while the Scunny lad thought it was (c) [!!!] so two nil to Pools - a good omen for the match maybe?

Pools kicked off playing towards the home end and tried to pass the ball about but there did not seem to be the same level of fluidity in their play compared to the previous weeks. It was a bit disjointed with periods of possession and, worryingly, a rather large empty area in front of Duckworth which was regularly exploited. On several occasions, he seemed to be faced by three opponents with their raiding number three getting free with powerful overlapping runs and delivering crosses in to the box. Luckily for us, Flinders, Burgess and co. were on form and dealt with this threat reasonably comfortably but it made for squeaky bum viewing.

 Franks was operating on the left with Monkie on our right but the latter has a tendency to drift inside to good effect which has resulted in some tremendous shots being struck but it's not too clever defensively. Dolan was having more of an impact and was spraying long balls about and Franks, operating on our left, made space for himself in the box before firing in a left footed drive which "I'm free/ Have you seen my pussy? etc." in the Scunny goal managed to parry away.

A long ball in from the right was met acrobatically by James who dived past his marker but his header lacked sufficient power or direction to trouble the keeper. This was unlucky because his effort to get on the end of the cross in the first place deserved more. Poole worked his way in from the left before dragging his shot wide. He was then hacked down from behind while on a similar run.

Walton was playing some decent balls around midfield but Monkie could only drill one wide from a free hit. We managed to exert some concerted pressure for the final ten minutes of the first half but the James/ Poole/ Monkie combination lacked any real potency and hadn't hit the heights they had reached before."Scunny were very average and although we weren't at our best, we had enough chances to have left with the three points"

On fifty minutes, Monkie tried another "Mansfield" but on this occasion, his shot clipped a defender before deflecting on to the post and going behind for a corner. He then tried a similar effort but again it came to nothing. We were beginning to show the tempo from earlier games but only in fits and starts. Poole left around the hour mark to be replaced by Walker and James and Walton were later replaced in quick succession by Rodney and Sweeney but the moves made no discernible difference to our fortunes.

Rodney went up front but was little more than nuisance value although he did neatly dummy his marker and made space to get an effort in but only managed to poke his shot wide of the left post.

In between the first substitutions came disaster as Burgess in attempting to slide the ball back to the advancing Flinders left him short and their attacker took full advantage and passed it into the far corner. It was a disappointing way to end our winning streak as Scunny were very average and although we weren't at our best, we had enough chances to have left with the three points.

Flinders was rarely threatened, Aussie put in another solid performance, Baldwin and Burgess (apart from his lapse) were class and Duckworth's performances seem to improve by the week. He provides an excellent outlet with his powerful runs from deep and seems to have energy to spare. As I feared though, Franks is not as influential or productive as Compton and we miss the outlet the latter provides. Finally, a word in praise of the ref who let the game flow and was hardly noticed throughout the ninety seven minutes.

The only consolation was that we were staying with Edith's family in Donny for a couple of days so I was 'home' in just over thirty minutes. Apart from those occasions when I have seen Pools at Torquay and been staying down there, that is far and away the quickest I have returned from a Pools match.

MB125 - November 2013

That Autobiography – the Missing Bits

KT POOLIE has Edward-Snowden-style revelations

Like many journalists, I get my fair share of invites to Premier League clubs to provide them with much needed publicity. After one such trip to the North West, I recall being lost in a darkened corridor having taken a wrong turning back from the Gents.

Retracing my steps, and ever mindful of the environment, I ignore the light switch, pick the lock of a door into what turns out to be a storeroom, and enter. Hoping to find a map of the building, I jemmy open the nearest filing cabinet marked documents for shredding. Imagine my surprise as I pick up a sheaf of handwritten papers entitled “AF – My Biography” each page stamped "REDACTED by Grewgious, Buzfuz and Snagsby, Barristers at Law.""Yer spoutin' aye ma auntie. They'll gie a'body a joab thae days"

My reporter’s instinct fires a tingle down my spine to the wallet in my back pocket. Here is a chance to elevate my Saturdays from slurping cold tea in an old converted portakabin to luxuriating in plush Premier League press boxes with copious wine and nibbles. Better yet a cushy studio job like Jeff’s.

Of course, there’s nothing in the published book about Hartlepool, but there are a few diary items in the draft. Before I decide which newspaper pays best, here is an exclusive extract for MonkeyBizz.

Aug 1988 13:30
Pre-season game at some minor North East club. A confidence booster before the season starts. Some of the lads are not happy. Viv and Paul McG are mithering about the changing facilities at the club – apparently a single Moulinex 900 hairdryer in Avocado is not good enough for these fancy dans. Time to bring them down a peg.
“We hud yin raucle towel atween 11 o’us in mah day. Dry yer eyes afore a dae. Yer paar o’ eedjits”

Later the same day
On the M62 the goalkeeper, Chris, tries to apologise. I am not in the mood.
“Six Nil. In the name o' the wee man! Wail ye can sook mah dokey if ye thaink yer aff hoorin' th' nicht”
On the positive side, I notice the Moulinex 900 is a robust little devil. I manage to clobber five players before it shatters. Must get them installed in our dressing room.
Norman burst into floods of tears. Cathy says I forget how young he is. She’s right, as usual. I settle his mind.
“Stoap greetin. 'Ye’v a face lik' a dug lickin' pish aff a nettle.”

Aug 1988
The Chairman turns down my request to bring in Kevin Dixon.
“See me? See ma' guidwife? See fitba? Loves it. She kens mair than ye, sittin` at yer desk wi' yer fancy phane 'n' filofax, yer boggin' gowk”
Fortunately in these early days he can’t pick out a word I am saying. I settle for the lesser option of Mark Hughes.

Feb 2002
I find myself in the stands casting an eye over young Fletcher playing for the youth team when I am tapped on the shoulder by a familiar face - the goalkeeper from that dreadful night fourteen years ago.
“Chap me doon wi' a feather! Whit urr ye daein' back 'ere?”, I ask.
I have no idea who we are playing tonight, and no idea he was in charge.
“Yer spoutin' aye ma auntie. They'll gie a'body a joab thae days”

I'm a Lot Happier Now


Well, as the great Max Miller used to say ‘it doesn’t take much to bring me back’.

Five wins in a row, (three of them away), and my writer’s block just crumbled away. I have been pretty pessimistic about our prospects since before the season began and the early results just deepened the gloom. Not even listening to the ‘Boro Hour’ could raise my spirits. I’m sure the medical profession would scoff at the notion that football results could make you ill but during the early part of the season I definitely suffered a general feeling of malaise that I just couldn’t shift. Any little twinges or aches seemed to be magnified and I wasn’t my usual happy go lucky, easy to get on with, self. (You can imagine what my school attendance and general demeanour and outlook in the sixties, seventies and eighties were like).

However there is no denying the fact that my spirits soared after the game against Plymouth. Truth be told we were under considerable pressure before Jack Compton was sent off and with a little bit of luck and better finishing by Plymouth we could have been two goals behind before Jack went for the early bath. However, even as he was trudging off I did not feel that we were bound to lose, although I did feel that a win would probably be beyond us. This was in marked contrast to earlier in the season when in similar circumstances I would have been expecting a rout. "Then when we scored a second before half time I still thought ‘another sickener on the way – we’ll manage to lose from being two up'"

I came away from the Plymouth match not just in a good humour at a win, but with my spirits raised at the way in which the team went about the whole business of dealing with the situation that they had found themselves in. They played with concentration, courage and a self belief that has not been evident for some considerable time. It was obvious from the way that the crowd responded to the effort and desire being shown that this was an exceptional performance. Of course, as the manager said, it would not be reasonable to expect the team to now take all before them and storm to the top of the division, but there are certainly strong grounds for believing that they have it within them to achieve a respectable position (by which I mean a top ten place) by the end of the season.

So, what sequence of events led to this state of comparative bliss?

Feeling thoroughly despondent after the Oxford game and operating more on auto pilot than any anticipation of an enjoyable afternoon I settled down to listen to dear old Ivan commentate on the Mansfield match. I was expecting an afternoon of mayhem being dished out by a much stronger and ‘more physical’ team. Even when we took the lead I was not optimistic that we would retain it. Then when we scored a second before half time I still thought ‘another sickener on the way – we’ll manage to lose from being two up’. When the third went in I cheered up thinking – ‘well, at least we are in with a chance of a point.’ Their penalty went in to make it 3-1 to us then, to add to my forebodings, either Ivan or his able assistant Nick (a W. Barrington Dalby in the making if he can only get the voice right) had to go and mention that we had once been 3-1 up at Mansfield in the recent past, only to lose 3-4.

That did it as far as any possible enjoyment was concerned despite us scoring a fourth goal. Even in injury time (I know, it sounds a little old fashioned but that’s just the way I am, so it will always be injury time to me) I was longing for the final whistle. Eventually there it was an away victory against the team that was third top of the division. I casually sauntered downstairs and hung around waiting for my good lady wife to ask how they had got on (something that she always asks straightaway when we have lost) and when she did I was able to make the grand announcement.

Discussing the game with a friend we came to the conclusion that fluke results happen in football and that is one of the great attractions of the game. No result is 100% guaranteed and the occasional upset is what keeps the punters coming, no doubt order would be restored when we played Sheffield United on the Tuesday. But no, a well deserved 1-0 win for us saw a second Sheffield United manager lose his job because of defeat against lowly Hartlepool in just a few years. Could this be the start of a great revival? Don’t be silly, Sheffield United are bottom of their division, you’re just getting carried away. However by the day before the game at Exeter, another team now in third place in the division, I cheerfully told one of my friends that I fully expected us to win. (As I said at the outset, it doesn’t take much to bring me back).

Would you believe it? A trip to Exeter and once again Ivan and Nick brought us glad tidings of great joy, another three goal win and a standing ovation from the home fans for Luke James as he left the pitch. Corner turned, we are now on the up. Just a minute though, we now have two home games in four days and our record so far is: played 5, won 1, lost 4. The first of these tests was against Plymouth when in all honesty we, ‘got away with it’, as described above. Now, what about Wimbledon? I have to say that I thought a two goal margin flattered us. Wimbledon played well throughout and wouldn’t let us get on and play how we like to. Nevertheless the team stuck to its task and ground out a win by dint of hard work and two excellent goals. We even had the crowd singing ‘We are unbeatable’ with a conviction that I had not heard since that one and only visit to the pit of despair along the A66.

How on earth has there been such a transformation in the team’s results and my expectations in such a short time? Well the manager did keep saying that he had a good squad and that he had confidence that we would soon be producing better results. There didn’t seem to be much support for that idea on the terraces that I could hear as most of us were convinced that we were on our way out of the football league. Could it be that a man who had played 606 league games and had played twice for England could know more than the experts of the Town End and the Cyril Knowles Stand? No that couldn’t be it. That would mean we would have to accept that somebody knows more about football than we do, and we’re not having that. The bad run must have been because somebody forgot to wear his lucky socks or some such. Well you know how irrational some football fans can be when it comes to supporting their team.

They will do almost anything no matter how daft it might seem if they have persuaded themselves that it will have an effect on the result of a game. For instance one well known medical man, not a million miles from Hartlepool United, wore the same pair of 'lucky' underpants throughout the 22 match unbeaten run under Danny Wilson. There again I wore my ‘lucky shirt’ to every home game last season, and much good it did us.

As I have said before, I don’t really believe in the mumbo jumbo of star signs and omens and such (especially in the hours of daylight) but I can’t really come up with a rational explanation as to what has happened.

There is however one coincidence that I can’t help pointing out and that is this: both performances and actual results improved dramatically when Craig Hope left his job with the Hartlepool Mail to seek his fortune elsewhere. I wish the lad every success in his endeavours and hope that he is so successful that he never needs to report on Hartlepool United again. Not that I believe in such nonsense of course.


Funny Old Game

Looking Good

WAGGA MOON likes what he's seeing

Colin Cooper has continued his fine work at Pools which should see him rewarded with a Manager of the Month award and Luke James possibly picking up the Player of the Month award for his vital goals in October.

James is showing what a lot of supporters suspected last season. That he is the best striker at the club by a country mile. It is just a pity that our two Scottish managers last season didn't get it.  Instead preferring Steve Howard whose failure to do the business led to both their downfalls and a one-way ticket back to Jockoland. And zero chance of getting another manager's job in the Football League.

Of course the excellent results in October have done a good job in deflecting the flak from Uncle Ken and Big Russ but they still have big questions to answer. And not the sort that we will get from the talking shop they have set up. Yes, our beloved fans' flannel. Just the job if you have a problem with the caps on your pop bottles, whether they are left or right thread, or indeed if they are on the bottle at all. Or if some divvy is putting too much milk or sugar in your half-time cuppa or why it costs you £3 to park near the ground on a piece of land covered in pot holes and guaranteed to knacker the suspension on your car if you park there at night. These will all be discussed in great detail no doubt, but questions on the football side will get the swerve as usual.
"We certainly have nothing to fear in this League as I don't think there is a really outstanding team in the division."
We are still waiting to hear who was dishing out contracts when we had no manager and whose idea it was to give Steve Statue a two-year contract at the age of 36 and the scoring record of a Conference full-back over the last five years.

Thankfully after serving his three-match suspension Big Steve has not had a sniff of the first team and long may it continue. If he intends seeing out his contract with Pools it might be that his ignominious sending off will be the last act of what has been a decent career.
I am sure he must have more pride than to slide out of football in that fashion, and a loan move out of the club must surely be the best solution for all parties.

Sorry to hear Tony Mowbray has left the Borer and hope it won't affect our position in taking loan players from them, as Christian Burgess and Matty Dolan have been sound acquisitions to our club. The rumours that Cooper is in with a shout will hopefully be false and I think it is a bit early in his managerial career to be thinking about a move, but I have no doubt he is going to be a big success with Pools. Like Brian Clough and Peter Taylor starting out with Pools, hopefully Coops and Craig Hignett can enjoy successful careers and the first few months have shown some good signs. I can see only good times ahead for this talented duo.

I don't think there will be any way Uncle Ken will ever ask these two to leave. Much more likely a bigger club asking him how much it will cost to take them off our hands.

If only Cooper could have been given the sort of budget Chris Turner was given when he first came to Pools I could see us really shaking up this division. It was reported in the local rag - or maybe it was from our fans' flannel - that there was money available to Cooper for a loan signing and for his wages just as it was to John Hughes. Now if you believe this you must still believe in the fairies at the bottom of the garden.

We certainly have nothing to fear in this League as I don't think there is a really outstanding team in the division. I think any team can beat any other on any given day and although Plymouth are in the bottom half they looked probably the best side I have seen this season.

Nice to see we got a home draw in the Paint Pots Trophy, albeit to a team from a higher division. This must be one of our best chances ever to get to Wembley, and let us hope that Little Lukey can keep his shooting boots on, or better still have a new signing to help him out. He might need it against the Millers because any team managed by Steve Evans doesn't take any prisoners and there will be a couple of 6ft bruisers ready to launch him onto the Mill House Terrace. But he is the type of guy to take this sort of punishment and bounce back ready for more. The most exciting prospect we have had at Pools for some years and long may he prosper.

A Week Is a Long Time


Harold Wilson is famously quoted as saying that a week is a long time in politics. When I cast my eyes on the then forthcoming fixtures of Mansfield and Exeter in the league and Sheffield United away in the JSP, I thought 'that is going to be one bloody long week', especially on the back of the home defeat against Oxford.

Bottom of the league and out of the cup was my initial thought. The rest as they say is history. Then the first few days of the following week saw us despatch Plymouth and Wimbledon. In total that is 5 wins on the bounce, 14 goals scored and two against, and both of those were penalties - one from what I heard being extremely dubious indeed (I am writing this ahead of the Scunny fixture so I hope I do no put the mockers on things). The likes of Cheaterfield and Rochdale, and perhaps even Arsenal, are starting to look over their shoulders, as the Exocet Missile that is Hartlepool United hurtles up the division(s).

That being said, I still stand by what I said in the last edition of MB, that we have a very average side, albeit Colin Cooper and Craig Hignett have performed wonders. I no longer believe that we will be paying the Conference a visit next season but I am fairly optimistic that if we bring in bring in a decent target man of the Richie Barker ilk and a speedy midfielder we might just miss the play-offs ...and gain an automatic promotion spot. At one point I think we were 17 points off top spot; now it is down to single figures (Scunthorpe permitting) ."I have got to say Simon Walton has been a revelation not only by leading by example but particularly in motivating and cajoling his troops."

I have got to say Simon Walton has been a revelation not only by leading by example but particularly in motivating and cajoling his troops. After Duckworth's lung breaking run from his own box to Plymouth's to put a cross in, Walton went over to him afterwards and put an arm round him and ruffled his hair giving words of encouragement. I can't recall who was subbed during that game (probably due to a combination of being jet lagged after a long flight along with several tinnies being knocked on the head to boot) but Walton gestured towards the Town End by raising his arms in the air to give the lad a decent round of applause as he ran to the bench. Mind, he would have to wear a clowns outfit and do cart wheels to get a similar reception for Stevie Howard in some quarters in the same circumstances. I am also led to believe he does a bit of sledging, to use cricketing parlance, and winding up the opposition. Not only that, he is playing out of his skin. And long may it continue.

I am still of the mind, despite recent results, that we can't play Dolan and Walton in the same set up. We really lack a pacey box-to-box midfielder who can get about the pitch and make himself available. And to that end, along with a decent target man, IOR should, circumstances permitting, get their hands into their pockets and make a statement of intent, and hopefully bring back the good old days which not only would benefit 'Pools, but the owners themselves.


The Wagons Are Rolling -at Last!


Although October finished with a defeat, don’t be too depressed. The good news is that this may have stopped Colin Cooper from winning the award for Manager of the Month. Its one award that’s the equivalent of the Black Spot - get that and you’re on a slippery slope. Remember when John Hughes won it last Season ? (I think it was for our performances in February and the goal drought resumed straight after).

Well, the game against Plymouth was hair-raising stuff, wasn’t it? Like most Poolies in the ground, I thought that Pools’ heads would go down after the sending-off of Jack Compton and we’d get clobbered. But it didn’t happen. The defence performed heroics and we managed to conjure up a fantastic goal from Luke James. I’ve never known so many fans stay till the end - their ovation at the end of the game was richly deserved. The statistic which astounded me was the fact that Plymouth were awarded 15 corners to Pools' nil. How’s that for dominance? 
"I’ve seen teams beat us at home, but I’ve not seen teams beat us that well!"

But we saw a different Pools and the good turn out from Plymouth fans must have wondered how they could find the net. The only blot on the horizon was the treatment of Plymouth’s keeper, Luke McCormick. OK the guy did wrong in killing the two boys but he’s served his sentence and should be allowed to get on with the only profession he knows. Its not the first time that Plymouth’s manager, John Sheridan, has helped an erring player to rebuild his career. Whilst at Oldham he brought Lee Hughes back in from the cold and indeed Hughes played his first game after leaving prison at Pools (it was a 3-3 draw). Since then, Hughes has appeared at Pools for Notts County; thankfully Port Vale were promoted at the end of last season so we won’t have him being a pain in the butt at The Vic during this campaign.

And so to Wimbledon. They caused Pools a number of problems with their direct play but once again the defence were up to it and we took our chances. What I liked about Wimbledon was that they restricted Luke James by tight marking - unlike Wycombe who thought the best way to restrict him was by fouling - nudge, nudge every time the ball was played to him. 

Prior to this, of course, there was the 3-0 win at Exeter, and I was interested in the post-match views of the Exeter manager, Paul Tisdale who said on their website “I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen us outclassed so much in a game of football. I’ve seen teams beat us at home, but I’ve not seen teams beat us that well!.” When it comes from an opposing manager we must have done well. Would you have got such honesty in the bog standard Premier League?

Reference has been made in the Hartlepool Mail to the contribution Neil Austin makes in holding together the young defence of Jack Baldwin, Michael Duckworth and Christian Burgess. From 1922-1939, the then Austin Motor Company produced a car that was known as the Baby Austin. The 1950s, of course, saw the Busby Babes so is it now, in 2013, Austin’s Babes?

Subsequent to the JPT game against Sheffield United, The Blades sacked David Weir as their manager. This is not the first time a club have sacked their manager after being beaten by Pools - good job they didn’t sack him before the game as they seem to have found a new lease of life. The husbands of a couple of the administrators where I work in Sheffield both support Sheffield United; one paced round the house complaining ‘We can’t even beat Hartlepool United’ and the other stormed off to bed not a happy chappy. Oh, dear!! Is there a simple explanation for Pools' newly found success? Obviously, Colin Cooper is getting the balance of the team right but it seems to me that Pools don’t play well when they’ve got the sun on their backs. Even though, for me, it will mean five layers of clothing, bring on the bad weather. The southern teams don’t like it up ‘em. (With acknowledgements to Corporal Jones).

Some people seem to have got their bowels in an uproar over Roy Hodgson’s monkey joke, haven’t they? Of relevance to Pools is that a number of visiting teams refer to us as The Monkey Hangers and some even relate the story about the Napoleonic Wars in their club programmes. Others even refer to us as Jeff Stelling’s Monkey Hangers and I once saw on Plymouth’s website : Preview: Pilgrims versus Monkey Hangers. No offence is given and nor are we offended. I really wish people would grow up and stop their fixation with political correctness.

Well, Greg Dyke’s going down a well-chosen route in setting up his commission to look into the state of English football and the failure to produce English-born players. If you’ve got a problem, set up a committee but then, of course, you’ve got to remember that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Some years ago, when Liverpool were at their best they provided few England players. Why? Because most of their team were from Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland! I was interested in the remarks of the Stoke City chairman, Peter Coates, when he was addressing the problem. He didn’t think there was an issue - the main problem being that crap managers of the England team were appointed - Sven (what’s he done since giving up the England job?) and Fabio.

Still, at least we’ve got to the World Cup finals in Rio and the main thing this time around is that there are going to be no high expectations. According to information coming through there aren’t going to be many English fans in Brazil as its going to cost an arm and a leg for hotel accommodation and internal air flights.

Topsy Turvy Tables

POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM looks at the league tables

This season is just about a quarter of the way through, but already things are starting to shake out a bit. Pools are pretty much where I expected them to be, although not in the way they have done it. Those first few games without a goal had me nervously glancing at the Conference tables to see some mouthwatering potential fixtures at Salisbury, Alfreton and Dartford, but since we remembered how to score we look far healthier.

In ours and the other leagues there are a few surprises. I'm not a big follower of the Premiershit, but it's nice to see both of the Manchester clubs way off the pace. I'm surprised that Arsenal are setting the pace already, but Southampton are the biggest shocker for me. I would dearly love them to finish in the top 4 and deny one of the 'big boys' a place in the Champions League, but I think they will peter out a bit as the season goes on. Down at the bottom there are no real surprises - you could have bet your house on Palace to go straight back down again, and surely the Mackems are due another season of embarrassment after their close shave last year.

The Championship is truly the most exciting league in the world, and once again there is no way you can predict which three teams will make it to the promised land in May. Realistically, at least half the teams in that division have a fair chance of promotion, as most teams can beat any of the others on their day and put a decent run together. And let us not forget the former high-flyers who have found their way out of that league in the wrong direction - maybe it's Bolton's turn this year? Sheffield Wednesday look like hitting another nadir, proving once and for all that they really aren't a big club."Venturing down to the Conference South, can anyone tell me just who the bloody hell Concord Rangers and Whitehawk are?"

At the top of what I now think of as our spiritual home, League One, I'm dead chuffed for Leyton Orient to be showing the bigger teams the way to do it. Hopefully they will be able to sustain the form, and not wither away like Tranmere did last season. Now Sheffield United have picked up a few points I expect them to pull away from the danger zone, but how much fun would it be to see Bristol City in the 4th tier next year? They are one of the many teams I love to see lose, in their case thanks to the antics of their 'fans' after that play-off semi-final at Ashton Gate.

League Two is still a massively open field, with only 6 points separating the top 13 clubs. The only really unusual position in there at the moment is Portsmouth - I fully expected them to be challenging this season thanks to their multi-million parachute payment from the Premiershit. The fact that they got this after doing over creditors yet again after another administration last season is subject matter for another article (as is the fact that their 10 points should have been deducted at the start of this season), and I take plenty of pleasure seeing them below us in the table.

The Conference is panning out as it usually does, with a former league team leading the way. I hope Cambridge make it back into the league, as it's a great away day with plenty of good pubs. Venturing down to the Conference South, can anyone tell me just who the bloody hell Concord Rangers and Whitehawk are? Neither of them are 'flying high' so it's unlikely they will trouble the real Conference next season, but I really think there should be a requirement for teams within the pyramid to have a sensible name.

Which brings me on to the last league which doesn't appear to be all going to plan, according to a few hardy souls. Darlington 1883 now play in the Evo-Stik First Division North. The league table takes some finding, even with the power of Google, and despite the expectation that they would charge their way up through the lower reaches like a cheetah with its arse on fire, they currently occupy the fourth spot. They recently lost to the mighty Curzon Ashton, who sit in second place, seven points ahead of them with two games in hand.

Now Pools may have been shite last season, but we salvaged a bit of pride here and there. Even on that long winless run, nothing can compare to playing second fiddle to a side who sound like they were named after the hero of an Agatha Christie novel. 

Funny Old Game

As I seen it - Wimbledon

RUNNING MONKEY watched the revival continue

League 2 - at the Vic - POOLS 3  AFC Wimbledon 1

Tuesday night footy looked to be a good attraction for the Pools fans as the turn out was 3600 with a good smattering of Dons fans on show. The Ditchburn Poolie rumbled into town, or should I say grumbled, as he chuntered on about last Saturdays win, quoting statistics. As I half listened I was glad I only had an old mobile that would not give me statistics. 

The Ditchburn is big on stats and the argument was how could Pools have possibly have had 49% of the game. I said 'we got three points, what is the problem?' He went on about how he never thought his team would be a 'win ugly' style team. I told him to go for a walk along the pier - all that fresh country air had addled his brain. He eventually snapped out of his stupor and announced that he had no idea who tonight’s ref was, and he did not give a bugger. This was unusual for the Ditchburn, who is usually full of information on the man in the middle. I said I did not give a chuff, and after last weekend’s shenanigans it was just as well. I spoke to a local Poolie who is very big in Hartlepool sporting circles, especially in the referee realms and he said he wished he could go into the Pools dressing room and talk to the players on how to handle a ref during a game. A good idea I thought - it may stop us ramping up the coloured cards like we do."Wimbledon teams have never been a shy bunch and once again the big lads were all in the opposition team"

Enough of the pre-match entertainment on with the show. And what a show it turned out to be. The ref this week must have been father to Luke James - well for the first twenty minutes anyway, as he got three free kicks in no time after being manhandled by centre backs. Wimbledon teams have never been a shy bunch and once again the big lads were all in the opposition team. They looked a good side despite some around me claiming they were nowt to beat. They had the ball in the net early doors with a good skilful move involving four players but luckily for Pools one of them was offside as the ball was struck. Smith the ex-Darlo player on loan from Charlton looked a handful; he was quick and slick but Burgess and Baldwin were up to the task and marshalled him very well throughout the game.

Pools were under pressure for a good spell and once again the panic set in as the ball kept coming back in and a foul by Monky gave them a free kick on the edge of the box. Ned made a great punch to clear but the ball was hit straight back in and Aussie was there to clear it. The scoreboard clock, which looked as it was going backwards, read sixty minutes after what was about half an hour. We had taken the sting out of them and started to get into the game a bit more.

A cracking speculative shot from Dolan was palmed away. Pools were attacking well down the flanks and a ball in to the box from Luke found Poole who wa,s chopped down, and Luke’s dad duly awarded a penalty. An audible intake of breath could be heard over the Vic as Walton took charge of the ball, but I am glad to report you will not see a better-taken penalty as he hit Pools into the lead.

Wimbledon came straight back at us and were pushing us hard for the equaliser. Ned was on his game and he had to be. Monky took another card after lashing out when losing the ball so he is racking up the points. Smith for the Dons had a free header from a corner but it flew into Morrison’s. Baldwin who was named Man of the Match nutmegged his marker and set Duckworth off on a great run but he was outnumbered and lost the ball in the box as half time was called.

Wimbledon restarted brighter than Pools and kept us pinned back for a long period and again the ball was just humped away with no direction. You have to give the Dons some credit as they do play good quick football and work very hard backing each other up. We had very few chances to break out but Luke and Duckworth have speed to burn and Luke charging in from the left just failed to reach a cross from Poole.

The Dons were really pushing us hard and the break came for them after a tackle from Monky gave them a penalty which had Ned going the wrong way, so one all it was. The Dons were really pressing and the Ditchburn was getting anxious, having to visit the little boys room more than usual. It has to be said in this column that Simon Walton had a 'DECENT' game. Not a spotless performance but decent. He made the second goal with a lovely ball in that had Luke licking his lips as he rose like a salmon and headed over the keeper for Pools, despite being under pressure, to go two - one up.

I have not seen the goal again as I write this but the replay will show you what a special player we have in young Luke. Long may he reign. The shocked Dons were still battling and we again had to defend in numbers to keep them at bay. What I deduce with the help of the Ditchburn is that we are playing an away system at home by hitting them on the break. If it works then go for it - tire them out letting them do all the running and hit them for six when you get the right ball. That is exactly what we did this time; Duckworth, who was still running strong, cut back and laid a ball on for Dolan, who hit a belter that scraped the right hand post, leaving the keeper gasping for air to make it three one to the Hartlepool.

It was all over bar the cheering as the four extra minutes were played out.
It was good to see a great number of Poolies give the team the applause they deserved, which lasted a full five minutes after the final whistle. This was a team performance, with outstanding players once again the centre-back pairing of Baldwin and Burgess, who I hope we can keep after hearing the clouds of Mordor are descending on the whole of Teesside after Mogga was sacked on Sunday. The black flags are hanging at half-mast throughout the Borer but I fail to see how they have not seen it coming for some time.

Duckworth and Aussie need a mention too but the lad Luke is playing out of his skin now; he looks fit and is getting the service, ball to feet, but he does win a fair share of headers and he won a special one tonight. I also owe an apology to the management team having won six on the trot but the early form brought out the worst in me and a lot of others in the ground. Nothing would please me more than to see them make a fist of this job

As I Seen It - Plymouth

RUNNING MONKEY sees a dogged win

League 2 - at the Vic - POOLS 1  Plymouth Argyle 0

After an eight-day week when the away team of Hartlepool surpassed all expectations by winning three away games on the trot - one a cup game, but no matter - it was still an unexpected bonus of a last sixteen place in the tin pot cup, and what was more surprising was six points in the bag on the road. 

Sitting one point above the visitors today that were also down amongst the division strugglers, but our recent form in some peoples eyes made us favorites today. Not often can you say that and looking at our previous home games this season you have to wonder where the optimism comes from, as the fare we have seen at home this term was, to say the least, hit and miss, unlucky, or plain bloody awful.

As I met up with the Ditchburn Poolie, he was full of joy that Mr. Mathieson was the ref for the day. What you have to understand is that the Ditchburn Poolie has spent the last forty-five years being out of kilter with the rest of the Poolie faithful. I let loose with an expletive similar to 'bar steward', but the Ditchburn just laughed it off. Firm but fair was his retort. M MMMMMMMM Mathieson was the response of most of the Poolies in our area.

What all the 3929 wanted to see was the away team for Pools playing a home game. How easy should that be? I could go into the Ditchburn explanation but it would take too long; a shortened version would be 'don’t play just one striker up front on his own.' There was a hint of a bounce around the ground today, which was good to see. But having seen the game I have to say it was a game of two keepers, a mascot and stretcher, and an official.

Monky was presented with a signed shirt to signify his three hundredth game for Pools. An improvement on awards as Michael Barron was reputed to have been given six cans of larger when he left and Ritchie Humphreys was reported to have had a phone call when he was on holiday. 'All irrelevant now' I hear you say but some of us have a conscience when it comes to legends at Pools. I really must stop watching Prime Minister's Question Time and expecting answers. OK, OK, I agree I am off at a tangent so back on track and onto the game."What all the 3929 wanted to see was the away team for Pools playing a home game"

In almost the first attack a Plymouth player was shot by a sniper from the town end, so early in the game I thought. But as play went on he lay motionless in the Pools box. As play broke down Mr. Mathieson blew to stop the game and allowed the physio on; it was taking so long that it looked serious but it soon became clear that the sniper's bullet had hit the player in the nose and he was bleeding. Bleeding con I thought, as there seemed to be very little contact with the nose of the eight-foot centre-half. Even H’Angus knew he was faking because the player refused the stretcher that the mascot had brought onto the pitch.

At half time the mascot was told if he went on the pitch the ref would not restart the game. 'MMMMMM Mathieson' I said to the Ditchburn. The ref was obviously sympathizing with the visitors and gave them a free kick just outside the box. The shot hit Duckworth and rebounded, and Ned made two superb blocks to deny the visitors. The Plymouth bench for some unknown reason threw a ball onto the pitch which a Pools player pushed off and it was again thrown back onto the pitch during play, the ref missing the incident both times.

We were pressing a little and Walton hit a shot wide and as they raced upfield Ned ran out to cover a ball and missed it, and only superb work from Burgess and Dolan managed to clear the ball. Monky had a header that he hit wide from a free kick. A tackle by Compton had the Ditchburn Poolie’s blood pressure rising when Compton went in with his feet up on the half way line and a red card was produced. But you have to say it was a blood 'n guts game and most seemed to agree it was a little rash of Compton. To be fair he was clipped just before the incident and did go in a bit hard but after all, it is a man's game played sometimes by big girls.

As Compton left the field there was a spontaneous round of applause, as the Poolies remembered the sixth anniversary of the death of Michael Maidens. As I said, it was a game of two keepers, with Ned blocking everything the visitors hit at him, and all through my notes there are saves or blocks by Flinders, while the man at the other end stood on his line for long periods with nothing to do.

I think we only made what you would call a threat on their goal on two occasions in the first half. Plymouth, with a man advantage, really pressed us and were a good side up to the box, where their lack of shooting prowess and some superb work from Flinders kept them at bay. Once again Mr. Mathieson’s parentage was brought into question when Duckworth, making a break, was almost clear when he was cynically chopped down, and sure enough Mr. Mathieson took no action against the offender. Plymouth really fancied their chances after running us ragged for most of the first half after Duckworth was dismissed. A one-handed save was a superb effort to keep us in the game when we were backpedalling.

It became a game of “three pots in” for the visitors as we were on the back foot. Once again Pools were unable to get someone to put a foot on the ball and calm things down and get us playing football again. Ned was blocking and saving as he did in the first half.

Reid, the Plymouth striker, one of those niggly players who run into men in the challenge and push and shove defenders around all  the game, had got off scot free, and despite him being a nuisance he was subbed, and it was nice to see him take out his anger on the visitors' bench and walls of the dugout. Which proved the point that the “BBC”, the Baldwin Burgess combination had done its job.

Ned made two tip-over saves in succession as Pools, who looked to be lacking in ideas, simply weathered the storm. Luke made a great break from our half and just kept running. Evading two tackles he rounded his man who tried to pull him down and he raced into space and stroked a beautiful low shot across the goal past the redundant keeper.

Ned made another good save on the restart as they pushed for a quick reply to our lead. This gave Pools some momentum and we started to get behind them more and Aussie had hard luck with a speculative chip to the back post that bounced off the top of the net. Luke was making runs but he had no support, as we could not break fast enough to help him out. Plymouth came back at us looking for a goal and once again it was backs to the wall for Pools, with only the odd sortie from individual players rather than in numbers. It was a good thing that Ned was in Man of the Match form, but there were some great performances today, especially Baldwin, Burgess and Austin.

Both Duckworth and Compton (despite the silly tackle for the sending off) played really well. Luke James was outstanding, and deserves the plaudits for pure grit. The run continues.

PS The debate on the parentage of the official will carry on until the next time he dares to darken our door.

As I Seen It - Exeter

ALREET witnessed an excellent away win

League 2 - at St. James' Park - Exeter City 0  POOLS 3

It's just before seven on Saturday morning and it's 'thistledown' as I drove up to my local station. Looking down the line towards London though, the inky clouds overhead had been replaced by a bright horizon so the weather looked set to improve. The journey down to Exeter was a pleasant, sunny trip but as we entered the latter part of the journey, the clouds reappeared and I wasn't sure if the dark sky was due to heavy rain or just a thick mist.

The reason for my trepidation (and I may have relayed this story before) was that I went down to see Pools at Exeter several years ago and as I was waiting for the train to stop, I picked up a paper that had been dropped on a seat and opening it at the footie page, discovered that Exeter v Hartlepool had been postponed! What to do? So I decided that as it was just before Christmas, I would spend the day doing some Christmas shopping. It's a fair hike from the station to the High Street but after a few hours of fruitless mooching round the shops, I decided that I had had enough and wandered back downhill to the station, stopping off to buy a pasty to console myself for my endeavours. That is no doubt the most expensive pasty I have ever bought!

Having decided to have a coffee and a bite before I left the station, the dark sky had been replaced by something more cheerful, and by kick-off it was a bright, sunny afternoon. I opted to sit in the seats for a change and noticed that there were three suited chaps standing by the touchline in front of me. If I may be permitted to indulge in a spot of name-dropping, I realized that one of them was Steve Perryman, their Director of Football. Now his brother Ted was in my class at school, then there was another brother, Bill, and finally Steve, who shared a class with one of my sisters. They all supported QPR as did a lot of my schoolmates and I often went there with them for a laugh.

Steve obviously didn't have a clue who I was until I said that I had last spoken to him when we were at school but he instantly remembered my name and we shared a few pleasantries together. Then another bloke turned up saying that he had been trying to have a word with Steve for fifty years. It was like waiting for a bus for yonks and two turn up together. Apparently he had captained a team that played against Steve who was captaining Ealing South Schoolboys at the time. Anyway, after a few more words with Steve, he scuttled off to his seat and I returned to mine. Almost immediately, I heard "Hello Alan" and I was joined by Bill, the chap from Somerset who I had previously met a few weeks ago at the Torquay match. Two pleasant surprises in one day!

So to the game itself and within seconds, the day could have been even brighter as James latched on to a ball that a defender failed to clear but unfortunately pulled his shot wide of the upright. Ironically, this was the complete opposite of the Torquay match where we should have been one down straight from the kick-off. The miss, however, did not prove costly as Compton, this time on the left, sent in a sublimely caressed ball with the outside of his left boot, which was nodded home by Baldwin, who again seemed to be all over the pitch. Compton and Poole both had shots saved while James once again dragged his shot wide of the post when put through.

As it happened, we were looking very solid in defence, but one nil is always a dodgy score line. Burgess was having another superb game (have I mentioned him before?), coasting his way through the match but putting in powerful tackles and headers when necessary. However, after one rare piece of sloppy defending by Pools, he gave away a free kick on the edge of the penalty area which I thought, from my position almost in line, was inside the box.

For a short spell in the second half Pools seemed to start defending deeper; I don't know whether this was deliberate or whether they just relaxed as City didn't appear to be applying any (extra) pressure or even looking dangerous. This phase soon passed and they regained the snap and tempo they previously had and went back on the attack. Pools got the breathing space they clearly deserved when James latched on to another incisive long ball from Compton, took a neat touch and deftly lobbed it over the advancing keeper who came rushing out and flattened him in the process. Again from my in line position and with a defender haring back, the ball seemed to take an age to drop and then bounce below the bar.

We were home and dry shortly afterwards when a ball from the left ended up at the feet of Compton on the opposite side of the penalty area and showing that he also has a right foot, hammered it back across goal and into the far corner. We then saw the game out but not before Poole made a jinking run through their defence but could not get any power behind his shot.

This, allied to the earlier missed chances, meant that we could have finished with a five or six goal haul mirroring the Mansfield match. We were as impressive in this match as we had been the week before, and once more it was difficult to single anyone out for Man of the Match, but I suppose it would go to Compton for his goal and the two beautifully flighted passes which led to the other pair.

In addition, I would give a special mention to two players who most would have binned way back - Monkey and Aussie who have been rejuvenated and are playing a genuine part in the overall structure of Pools' set up. To think that we couldn't buy a goal a few weeks back and I know a goal is a goal but we haven't half scored some crackers recently.

The form we have shown at Mansfield and Exeter has been outstanding and a neutral watching us would surely have thought that we were romping away at the top of the table. The players are really up for it, showing a great team spirit, harrying, covering, tackling back and attacking in numbers. We are playing at a great tempo and stringing passes together all over the pitch. Burgess and Baldwin, well, what can one say? They are ably supported by Aussie and Duckworth who are also providing great support further up the line."we could have finished with a five or six goal haul"

Duckworth had one spirited run which took him past a couple of defenders and into the box but he just couldn't manage to get his shot in. Walton and Dolan provided a solid platform in front of the back line, also offering support and linking up with the attack. Monkey wins loads of headers and is working well with the others up front. Compton is blessed with a sweet left foot, finds space, has pace and good control, is not afraid to take men on and adding in his goals, is the complete wide man. Poole is linking up well with the others and providing some telling passes but probably not netting as many as he should. James is a real nuisance to big defenders and if only he could find a spot more composure when in on the keeper, we would have our elusive twenty plus goal a season striker. Given time, one can only hope.

So what of Exeter? Well, they started quite brightly across the middle of the park and I thought they might prove a tough test but we quickly got our game going and they hardly troubled us all afternoon. Their makeshift "star" striker, Scot Bennett, with four goals in four games was made to look exactly what he is, a defender, and from memory, I believe he only managed one powder puff header which Flinders just stood and nonchalantly caught above his head.

I arrived back at the station with half an hour to spare before my train was due. Ambling about in the foyer, I saw a familiar face queuing up for a ticket. Wearing a smart grey overcoat with a large bag over his shoulder, I thought I would pinch a few words to pass the time.  It was none other than Mr Walton. I wondered if he was travelling back to Plymouth for the weekend but he said that he was going up to London to see his little girl. I complimented the team on their recent revival and said that they had been so impressive in their last couple of games. I expected him to say that it was down to a change in personnel or tactics, or something along those lines, but he surprised me slightly by replying that "It had taken them a few games to realize that you needed to toughen up in League Two". While this was no doubt true, it struck me that our recent change in fortunes was largely due to the fact that we are now keeping the ball on the deck and playing some great passing football as a result. There is a tangible self-belief in the system and it's working brilliantly. Whatever, he came across as a polite and pleasant lad.