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.