Showing posts from March, 2014


Pools 4 Bristol Rovers 0,   League 2  Saturday March 15th 2014

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at The Vic


I did not even get time to sharpen my pencil today before Pools were one up. To tell the truth I had forgotten to put my journo's kit in my pocket as I changed jackets seconds before leaving for the game. Even my butter mints were left at home. 

I was in the process of cadging a pen when we kicked off, and had to make do with a couple of old lottery tickets from the last home game to scribble my notes on. The Ditchburn had given me the SP on the ref who was fairly new but had about seventy yellows and six recent reds to his name, so he was on a loser before we started. 

The visitors had ex-Pools favorite Trigger in the dugout and he knew the game and turned us to kick the wrong way at the start. Now Trigger got it all wrong today. Possibly he did not stick a wet finger out of the tunnel before deciding this ploy and found his team playing into the strong wind in the first half. 

From the off Luke was tearing up the Cyril Knowles side of the pitch to the by-line; beating two defenders he sent in a cross that was cleared for a corner. Barmby sent it over and Marlon at the back post scored the easiest goal he will ever score to make it one nil to Pools with barely a minute on the clock. The latecomers asking for a replay were stunned at missing what must have been one of the fastest goals Pools fans had ever seen. 

Pools really went for the visitors who, according to the Ditchburn, were great at home and poor away. The ref even allowed them a blatant full-on back pass to their keeper jut to ease the pressure on them, much to the annoyance of the Town End fans. Monky had to go off with what looked like a thigh problem but it turned out to be a hamstring job, so another casualty for the benches. Compton replaced him as Pools set about them in numbers and Walker, who we know can shoot, was prepared to shoot on sight and his first long range shot hit the keeper but he was back again with another twenty-five yard shot that screamed into the net giving Pools a two goal lead. 

O’Toole, who the Ditchburn reckons is going to go for big money, was not a patch on Walker who, for me, could have been Man-of-the-Match. Walker again tested the keeper with another long range shot that the keeper tipped over the bar. The lad was right to keep testing the keeper who looked shaky and was letting his defenders know what he thought of them. 

"Marlon at the back post scored the easiest goal he will ever score to make it one nil to Pools with barely a minute on the clock"

Ned made a couple of saves as Bristol tried to get back into the game after a shaky start. Young Luke was once again made a target for the defenders who really were having a struggle to hold him and Barmby, who had a superb game today. He can turn on a sixpence and switch the play to either side with ease and he was at his best today really getting in the face of the visiting team. 

Rovers did rally a little towards the end of the first half but the damage was done and Pools, with the wind second half, would be a stern test for the visitors. Early in the second half as Luke made a break he was cynically chopped down again but this time the yellow card was shown. 

The third goal came as Marlon went down in the box; yes it was a dive after very little contact but hey we have had to suffer our fair share of decisions like that, and when Walton put the penalty away it was good to see the whole team charge into the corner in celebration. 

Bristol had their dander up now and were looking for retribution as Pools faded slightly from the game allowing O’Toole to show his skills, but he was all bluster. Ned did have to make a point-blank save from an attacker that he blocked and it fell to another attacker. Sam made a great block on the second close-in shot to keep them at bay. Another attack saw Ned beat with a shot but it hit the bar and bounced clear. 

The visitors, taking a free kick in the middle of the park, played a short ball and Barmby nicked in, took the ball from two players and raced on to the visitors' goal, but his shot was over the bar. Hawkins came on for Walker near the end but Pools were not done yet as Luke again broke free and set off for the goalmouth. His shot hit the post and dropped perfectly for Franks to hit home the fourth and final goal of the game. 

A great performance; not even the Ditchburn could remember a four-nil win. I asked him if it was reminiscent of the so one-sided Grimsby game that night we hit eight but he stormed off home muttering something about not seeing that one and it was all their lass's fault, having relatives abroad that she insists on visiting during the footy season. 

This was a “STELLA’ performance by the whole team today which was much needed after the two away defeats. Walker, Barmby and Luke were exceptional and Sam deserved his Man-of-the-Match accolade, ably assisted by a great performance from Burgess, and not forgetting another clean sheet from Ned on his 200th league game for the club. 

Until today I thought we had blown it for the play-offs and was just happy to make progress to safety in the division. The Ditchburn take on this is that we are better staying out of the play-offs as we may be embarrassed. One game at a time eh?

As I Seen It - Wycombe (a)


Wycombe 2 Pools 1,   League 2  Saturday March 8th 2014

Match report by BILL THE BIRO at Adams Park


I’ve been to Adams Park many times, it being one of my more local jaunts at 70 miles each way. Thus knowing the ropes, I avoided the club car park, which is at the end of an industrial estate and can take more than half an hour to escape. So I availed myself of a factory car park, carefully chosen for a quick exit.

This match came on the day after I finally retired after talking about it for years, so I thought I'd go mad and hang the expense. So, not really needing a drink, I went into the Hour Glass for a pint anyway. And being an inverted snob about football, I chose a seat under the TV so I wouldn't have to look at whatever Premiership match was on. However, as I got up to leave, I did look up at the screen, only long enough to see which match it was, and saw a cross put into West Brom's net by Wayne Rooney. I thought this might be an omen. On the way out I saw there was another TV showing a different match, and as I was passing Arsenal scored against Everton. I thought this might be another omen - two teams in red scoring against teams in blue (Wycombe play in Blue so we'd be in red).

So, arriving at the ground, I decided to splash out and buy a programme - you only retire once (well some people do) and - they were giving them away free! I thought that was another omen.

Adams Park humour - defaced blackboard
Wycombe wit!
Having paid full price two weeks ago at Northampton because their age limit was 65 when I was one week short, I was a bit miffed to find that Wycombe's age limit for senior tickets is only 60.

Once inside, having ensured I had my Bizz cap because the away end faces the setting sun (which was a problem for us Poolies here at about the same time last season), I discovered they were no longer using the "away end", but instead we were put at the adjacent end of a side stand, which if anything made the sun even more of a problem.

Unlike most grounds, where they create a no-man's land between fans by putting a tarpaulin over a block of seats, Wycombe were a bit more trusting. Their barrier consisted only of a polythene tape without a no-man's land, so that fans of either side could punch each other over the tape were they so disposed. That there was not a hint of trouble may justify the arrangements on this occasion, but it was a bit unusual.

The last couple of rows of seats on the other side of the tape barrier comprised a press box, identifiable more by its laptops than any form of structure around it, and there on the end, next to the barrier ribbon, was Bill Turnbull (of BBC Breakfast TV and Strictly Come Dancing fame), who was obviously doing some radio commentary (the earphones gave it away).

Here’s the view from my seat, showing the Wycombe pressbox. Bill Turnbull is sat on the end of the back row. The barrier dividing the home and away fans is bottom left and the free match programme is top left. The belly can only marginally be attributed to Wycombe’s pies!
Having my camera with me, and having on previous visits seen loads of red kites drifting around over Adams Park (in these parts they are as common as pigeons), I was disappointed to not see any all day.

"As usual Colin Cooper left it too late for his substitutions to have much effect."
Anyway, the match got started with Pools fielding an unchanged team. As at Northampton a few weeks earlier, another player was injured and had to be substituted in the first few minutes, this time not a Pools player. The first half was pretty even and entertaining, with Wycombe looking better than their league position. Pools were looking better than at Northampton, but there was lethargy in places, and Harewood was fairly immobile.

Towards half time a dogged solo effort from the wing, dodging quite a few tackles on the way, resulted in a goal for Jack Barmby that took Pools into a half-time lead.

The second half provided the expected Wycombe pressure which, combined with Pools' deficiencies in some areas, enabled Wycombe to equalise and then score what would be the winner. As usual Colin Cooper left it too late for his substitutions to have much effect.

The players: Flinders was ok and pulled off one superb save. Richards was good, especially going forward, Holden less so. Sam and Burgess were good, as usual. Walton was his usual good/bad/stroppy self and his attitude to the ref could easily have turned his yellow card into a red. Again Ronaldo showed both his promise and his youth. I hope I'll be able to see him when he's twenty.

Luke was Luke, but needed someone to help him, not a plank. Sadly Harewood provided very little.

At one point Luke went sliding in, inside the box, and took out two defenders. Luke got up straight away, but both of them needed attention. Monky was always trying to get things going, but Barmby's performance was more fits and starts.

In the end it was probably a fair result.

After the match my choice of car park was vindicated by a quick getaway to the M40, but, as is customary in such losing situations, no interest in hearing the football results.

Dear Aunt Agony

KT POOLIE finds a revealing document

Phone hacking is going through a hiatus since the recent problems in national papers, but searching bins often gets results.  A recent trawl outside the Pools training ground revealed the following discarded letter which I felt had to be shared with Monkey Bizz Readers.

Dear Aunt Agony,
I’m torn between my old mates and some new ones I’ve been mixing with.   It’s doing me head in! 
Things have been going well for me at work since my apprenticeship ended.  The gaffer has been giving me more responsibility and seems pleased with my progress, despite my youth.   He’s always bigging me up to his mates in Middlesbrough and the local press.  He’s given me a role every week alongside, an experienced guy, ‘Walts’,  and even he has stopped balling me out every few minutes.  
Last week was the best ever.  I put in a cracking shift and topped it off with a belting game-changer which had all the lads hugging and high-fiving me.  Now the big bosses down in that London have been in touch and I have been asked to work with some of the country’s top young performers.  Even Jack didn’t achieve that before he moved down to the Posh.
" I almost choked on the clouds of David Beckham’s 'Instinct' "
But that’s when the trouble started.  All of the others were from Premier organisations and had never heard of Teesside, never mind our place. They turned up in BMW 7 Series, XJs, Aston Martin Rapides  - I had to ask Dad to park the Focus round the back.  My chin fell open at the Versace suits, Charles Tyrwhitt shirts and Tag Heuer watches – and I almost choked on the clouds of David Beckham’s 'Instinct'.    

At first I was overwhelmed but one of the guys said something comforting, “Wossmatta, Geeza, ya look a bit dan in the maff”, which I took to mean I looked a little sad.  I explained it was all new to me.  “Safe mayt, chek out me new henri's” he replied, pointing to his tracksuit bottoms – Henri Lloyd, apparently.

I felt more accepted after the welcome party – One Direction performed on top of a castle carved out of champagne ice and we all got goody bags with an Apple TV, a 3-D head-mounted mini cinema and Onyx Wireless headphones.   Dad says he’s buggered if he knows where we can put the Fish Tank coffee table.

The thing is though, the time away from work was fabulous, darling, but now the day job is sooo mundane and the boys seem just, like, well-jel and all that.   I asked Big Sam round for a coffee from my new machine – another pressie.  I gave him a venti grande hot soy with extra foam, split with a half-squirt of sugar-free vanilla and an ooja-berry biscotto – but he wasn’t impressed.   Dad says I was lucky to escape with a thick ear and a kick up the backside.  What do you think?

Your loving nephew,

Age Old Problem

BILLY'S CONTRACT on journalism

Colin Cooper is forty six years old.
How do I know that?
Every night in the Hartlepool Fail whenever Colin Cooper's name is mentioned in said newspaper they always always insist on inserting somewhere in whatever article that they are writing up on him is his age. Which by the way is 46. 

Has any one else noticed this or is it just me? In fairness Cooper is not the exception; the same over time has pretty much applied to all previous Hartlepool United mangers and players alike.

I am not sure if it is a standing 'IN' joke amongst the Mail's sports writers to included his age in everything that is written about him, or it is just an excuse to fill column inches.

It reminded me of my school days when you were asked to write an essay of 700 words or so on what you did on your holidays. This would be a major problem for me, to put so many words down on paper on one subject. Basically It was Dog Day Afternoon for me during the six-week summer break from school ...every day was pretty much the same. Get up late then at midday trot off to the 'Tri'* on the Town Moor for a game of 35-a-side football which only finished when it was too dark to play or the tide came in!
In retrospect when writing my English essay if I included the age of everyone who took part in these epic windswept matches In the Ancient Borough I would have had little or no problem committing 750 words to paper about my summer holidays.
"a game of 35-a-side football which only finished when it was too dark to play or the tide came in!"

The Mail having read this will realise Monkey Business have sussed them out about their 'Padding out' of their sports column. As a result I am guessing that they will now drop the age theme/obsession and will in future concentrate on using other superfluous wording for other characteristics of the person of whom they write.

I can image the next article Sports Mail write on Colin Cooper will be something in the following vein.
The middle aged, Piscean, ex-Nottingham Forest and Sunderland train-spotting, science-fiction-reading defender...

Oh how I laughed during the half time interval of the match against Torquay United when over the P.A. it was announced that that day was none other than Colin Cooper's birthday. Make a note of the date in your diaries dear readers - CC's birthday is the first of March.

I hope that the Mail took note of this announcement because for the first time in 'giddy yonks' I will rush out on Monday and part with 60 English pence to purchase a copy of that Sheffield-printed paper to see if they have in their write-ups on Pools upgraded Colin Cooper's age from 46 to 47. If not there will be a strongly worded letter to the Editor ...signed "Disgusted 60-year-old" of Billingham.

P.S. Happy Birthday Mr Cooper.

* For the benefit of non-Headlanders 'Tri' was short for 'Triangle'.

Funny Old Game

An Excellent February

WAGGA MOON on an improved situation

After an excellent February with the only blip a defeat at Northampton Pools are looking upwards at the play-off places.

And with Southend and Fleetwood showing signs of slipping up we are only five points off seventh place.
And we will have Monky's late season resurgence in form to look forward to. You know - the time when he realises he is playing for a new contract and puts some effort in. Who knows he might even remember where the net is. Colin Cooper dropping him for one game certainly didn't remind him.

Only conceding three goals in February has certainly helped our improvement although the contribution of Luke Williams should not be ignored. Recalled to the Borer he could not get a place on the bench at Sheffield Wednesday and this in a team that has not scored in eight games. They may as well have left him to bang in a few more goals for Pools.

Uncle Ken has been trying to explain in his programme notes how he can't spend any of the Baldwin money, too late for this season and doubtful for next season as well. Only succeeded in tying himself in knots and losing the plot with only the hard of thinking believing a word he says. Lucky for him Sam Collins is having one of his best ever spells at Pools so that Baldwin has hardly been missed and the fans are not getting on his back.

Some posters on a Pools messageboard appear to have taken exception to last month's article. It has always surprised me that the coalition government have not called on them for advice on the latest planned welfare cutbacks or the flooding problems on the Somerset levels. 
"He is even beginning to win some of the Mill House Terrace punters over and in such a short time that takes some doing"
Or that Balshar al-Assad has not been in contact for some advice on how to settle the Syria conflict.

Indeed there are some guys on there who live abroad and have not been to a match for seven years and know more about the present Pools team and who is on form than the guys who actually go to the matches!

The highlight of February was surely Brad Walker's goal at Southend and the best defensive moment was Darren Holden's fantastic goal-line clearance in the same game. Coincidentally the funniest moment of the month was when Flapper Flinders caused Holden to make that save as once again he went walkabout in the penalty area and knocked the ball straight to a Southend striker who was sure his shot had won the game until Holden dramatically appeared on the scene.

It seems Flinders will be leaving at the end of the season as his contract is up and he is one of the highest earners at The Vic although his performances this season haven't warranted his top earnings. Word is that Dimi Konstantopolous will be in goal for Pools next season.

My favourite moment of the month was when Marlon Harewood opened his account and how pleased not only he was but how the fans responded. I have a feeling he could become a cult hero at Victoria Park with the way he plays and helps others to get in the game and his infectious enthusiasm. He is even beginning to win some of the Mill House Terrace punters over and in such a short time that takes some doing.

Simon Walton, after a difficult first season, is really starting to look the part at the moment but even he had to put up with a volley of abuse from the Mill House Terrace against Torquay after floating a free kick straight into the Rink End. He wasn't best pleased either, trying to respond to the the big mouth in kind which is never the best thing to do. Almost as silly as Newcastle manager Alan Pardew trying to stick the nut on one of the opposition players. It is just as well the Hull player was restrained as Pardew would have been in even more trouble than he is already.

A big month to come for Pools and our promotion ambitions in March with two Tuesday night matches included but the teams all look beatable with probably Oxford United away looking the most difficult game. But they are ony Oxford. We can see them off, can't we?

Out Like a Lion, In Like a Lamb


As Pools inch their way towards the play offs, speculation is already mounting as to whether we can mange what we thought would be impossible at the start of the season. Certainly, Colin Cooper has done nothing to dampen down expectations.

What put the fear of God into me was the fact that we had to play the two bottom sides in consecutive weeks - Northampton and Torquay. We failed at the first hurdle but fortunately didn’t fall at the second. Even then, the Torquay game wasn’t easy but we took our chances and in the end it was a comfortable win. Chesterfield’s manager, Paul Cook, admitted that Torquay had caused them problems and only two late goals saw The Spireites through.

The defence against Torquay was very solid and for me the star of the show was Christian Burgess. Everything about him was first class - his general defensive play, his recovery when tackles didn’t quite come off and, of course, we’re now getting used to his speedy forays deep into the opponents’ half. Some day he’s going to have no one to pass to and will have to score himself. And then there’s the signing of Marlon Harewood. Unlike Steve Howard, who divided Poolies, Marlon Harewood has won Poolies over very quickly and the reception he received when being substituted towards the end of the Torquay game was evidence that everyone’s recognised his skill and effort. I gained the impression in the Newport game that Harewood was a bit of a target but, of course, he’s a bit long in the tooth to be put off by that. On the other side of the coin, Marlon Harewood seems to be enjoying himself surrounded by all those younger players!

Which brings me to March. After the Torquay game, we have six fixtures: Wycombe (away), Accrington (away), Bristol Rovers (home), Oxford (away), Mansfield (home) and Cheltenham (home). Only one of those sides are above Pools so, in theory, we should accumulate a few points. Well, that’s the theory anyway.
"Marlon Harewood seems to be enjoying himself surrounded by all those younger players!"
A cause for worry is, of course, injuries and suspensions. Neil Austin’s injury has been far more serious than at first realised and then, of course, there’s the injury to Michael Duckworth. Fortunately, we’ve been able to overcome these but with a paper-thin squad we could be in trouble, particularly with the flurry of games in March. Still, Colin Cooper’s already proved that he can tap the loan market successfully for young players, rather than relying on has-beens who can’t get a place at their current clubs.

By the way, the Hartlepool Mail seem to have a thing about Colin Cooper coming from Trimdon and being 46 years old. Seems to get a mention every week! (So Billy's Contract is not the only person besides me to have noticed! - Ed.)

Last month I mentioned the refereeing at Pools this season. One of the things about the Torquay game was that the ref, Fred Graham, was hardly noticed and the only time he was called into action was when there was a six player fracas following a foul on Scott Flinders. Got in amongst the combatants, presumably told them to put their handbags away and kept his yellow cards in his pocket. Well done, ref. A throw back to the good old days.

The weekend of the Torquay game provided plenty of publicity for Sunderland and Newcastle. Sunderland’s achievement in getting to the final of the League Cup has been well documented and if Mags fans were jealous of Sunderland dominating the air waves and newspaper columns then they couldn’t have imagined the publicity that would be generated as a result of the head butt by Alan Pardew at Hull City. As someone said, it must be the only time in years that anyone at Newcastle has used their loaf! They are a club that never cease to amaze me for shooting themselves in the foot. And its not just a modern day thing. In the 1960s, they refused to give George Eastham a transfer and as a result he took them to court and was successful in getting the then retain-and-transfer system declared a “restraint of trade”. One well-known player in his newspaper column at the time said that bad employers soon became well-known and identified Newcastle as one of those kind of employers. You can always trust The Mags to wash their dirty linen in public.

We also got news of the draw for Euro2016 and England were, of course, grouped with Switzerland, San Marino, Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia. An easy draw which would make the FA happy, you’d think. But wait. Having spent £750 rebuilding Wembley how on earth are they going to fill the place with games like this. Will probably have a full house for Switzerland but for the rest of the games they’ll have to give the tickets away. Another alternative - why not play the games at Pools. I think we might be able to fill Victoria Park on a Tuesday/Wednesday night. I’ve no doubt that the FA will come up with something - ranging from high profile friendlies to changing their replica shirts. We can see now why rebuilding Wembley was a big mistake; the how much better it was for England games to be played at various grounds throughout the country. The venues could then have been tapered to the opposition.

In an earlier issue of MB, I mentioned the fate of clubs who have ex-Poolies in their ranks. Notts County seem to be destined for League Two, and any push towards safety will have to be made without Gary Liddle who, unfortunately, received a serious ankle ligament injury just before Christmas and is out for the season.  Stevenage (with Peter Hartley in their ranks) are still struggling as are Tranmere (with Evan Horwood in their ranks). The only one, it seems, to have come up smelling of eau de cologne is our Ritchie at Chesterfield. Leading the way in League 2, he’s also got a Wembley appearance coming up in the final of the JPT.


As I Seen It - Southend (a)

ALAN ESSEX sees Pools in Essex

Southend 1 Pools 1 League 2, Tuesday 18th February 2014

For as long as I can remember Southend United have been planning to move away from their Roots Hall ‘roots’. A ground which they have occupied since 1955. The latest proposal is a new stadium at ‘Fossets Farm’ not far away, adjacent to their training ground.

The plan is to have a hotel, conference facilities and other commercial activities on the site as well. The current location is planned to have a Sainsbury’s store and apartments. In situations like this I’ve always wondered why Sainsbury’s don’t use the new area and Southend stay put. I guess there are ‘sensitive’ commercial reasons and as Southend are, as is common at this level, struggling financially they probably have little option. They have faced a succession of ‘winding up’ orders over the years, the last one being July last year. At the last minute funds always appear.

Having said all that, they are still at Roots Hall and although the ground is a little on the old fashioned style I quite like it – probably because of this.

I set off in the afternoon to pick up David and was given a slap up tea of ‘Cheesy Peas’ omelette and very nice it was too. We then drove to Billericay, 16 miles from Southend. A place popularised by the singer Ian Dury in the song ‘Billericay Dickie’ to pick up his nephew Adam, a keen football player and follower. He gave us the lowdown on Southend and how they would play a 4-3-3 system. He informed us that Southend were particularly strong down the left with Coker and Straker as danger men and Corr as the main strike force.

The game started with rain onto an already saturated pitch, the goal areas soon resembled the Somme or some of the wetter Glastonbury rock festivals and the wings also soon cut up. Despite this both teams were trying to play good football in worsening conditions. Both defences had to be on top form, Collins and Burgess were both having good games and I was impressed by both full backs, Holden and Richards who it could be argued were only playing due to injuries to Duckworth and Austin. Walton was also having a good game assisting with defence and trying to set up attacks.

Corr as predicted by Adam was a threat when Southend attacked and one headed effort from close range hit the underside of the bar and fortunately rebounded into the hands of Flinders. Holden was doing well both defensively and when he could setting up attacks one being to set up Walker whose shot was saved by their keeper Bentley. Southend must have a thing about having keepers named after luxury, prestige cars as a previous incumbent was named Royce. So if there are any budding keepers out there named Mercedes S. Class you know where to apply!

Southend were having the greater attacking opportunities but our defence looked safe until a few minutes before half time. Burgess could not stop the man he was marking who was able to put a short pass in to Corr who side footed into the corner of the net just beyond Flinders' dive and Monkhouse’s attempt to block.

In the second half Southend nearly got a second just after the restart but Pools overcame this and began to look very sharp, Ronaldo especially seemed more mobile and up for it. However sensing that Pools needed to attack, Southend pushed forward and Burgess had to clear off the line with Flinders well beaten.
"the final score was a fair reflection of the game which was an excellent spectacle for this level, especially considering the conditions"
After a quarter of an hour of the second half Holden broke down the left but his cross was not the best, the Southend defender miscued his clearance which fell to Ronaldo just outside the penalty area; he volleyed this as only Ronaldo can and the shot flew into the top right corner of the net. Now many of you will have seen this goal on the various media outlets, it was truly spectacular, a definite contender for goal of many a season.

Pools were now confident enough to press forward and James had a great effort equally well saved by Bentley. Other half chances fell to Pools but there was some last ditch defending at the other end with Pools players blocking shots and physically putting their bodies on the line, and Holden cleareing off the line with Flinders again beaten.

About 20 minutes from time Freddy Eastwood replaced the effective but tiring Straker for Southend. This was Eastwood’s 200th appearance for them and I think it merits a serious mention that as a member of the travelling community he has been the victim of abuse, but I’m glad to report there was none from the Pools supporters.

I thought the final score was a fair reflection of the game which was an excellent spectacle for this level, especially considering the conditions.

Marks – as I’ve said before, totally subjective: Flinders - 6, Richards - 7, Collins - 7, Burgess - 8, Holden - 8, Walton - 7, Cristiano Ronaldo - 7, Williams - 6, Monkhouse - 7, Harewood - 7, James - 7.

A final note especially for the Ditchburn Poolie. The referee as I’d been informed was Keith Hill – he was true to his statistics which averaged 3.25 bookings per game, he booked 3 players and to be honest had a good game, largely down to the fact that both teams played with a good attitude and minimal fouls.

A final final note – Southend had a page in the match programme entitled ‘Four to Watch’. The first was Scott Flinders and a brief description of his career – the picture accompanying the piece was definitely not Scott Flinders.

I was home by 12:30 (a.m. Wednesday) after a 200 mile (to the mile) round trip to watch a ‘local’ match. Still it was a good match and great banter.

As I Seen It - Northampton (a)

Match report by ALREET at Sixfields 

Northampton Town 2, Pools 0 League 2 Saturday February 22nd 2014

Let me say at the outset that, despite Edith's optimistic prediction of a One Nil Pools win, I had bad vibes about this one. We have been playing quite well of late and our steady form has seen us climb to within reach of the play-offs but the bottom team away bore all the hallmarks of us missing the next rung on the ladder and taking two steps back.

Approaching Northampton by rail, it was comforting to see that the old 'lift' tower was still in situ but reaching the station, things changed dramatically. The station is being completely rebuilt and looking for the exit from the platform, I noticed that the other passengers had embarked on a trek to the far end and were climbing up a monster temporary bridge that consisted of three sets of sixteen steps. It looked as if it had been constructed with double- decker trains in mind. Luckily, I don't suffer from vertigo. I have walked to the ground in the past but as it is about two miles away and time was getting tight, I opted for a taxi.

Bill the Biro was also at the match, and provided this picture showing all of Northampton's most well-known places in one shot. In the foreground is the home end of Sixfields with its tubular floodlight pylons. Behind that is the bottom of the famous Northampton Lighthouse (actually the testing tower built by Express Lifts Ltd) which can be seen for miles around. Behind that is the equally famous Franklins Gardens stadium of top rugby club Northampton, showing the club colours on its new stand. And in the far distance you can see the floodlights of the Northants county cricket ground, which the Cobblers used to share before moving to Sixfields, in a quaint arrangement where the two pitches were side-by-side (slightly overlapping) with the stands around the outside.
It was a bright, sunny afternoon as the teams lined up but the first surprise, at least for me, was the omission of Monky as I thought he had been doing well recently. Pools were kicking towards the home end and it wasn't long before James was running down the right wing and winning a corner which was taken by Barmby. Unfortunately, it was a pathetic effort, bouncing halfway before it even reached the first defender. 

A second corner shortly afterwards from the same position was of equally dubious quality. Williams tried his luck from outside the box but his left-footed shot was too high. Duckworth, making his comeback from injury, was suddenly hobbling back towards goal. The ball was switched to the opposite side of the field but when I looked back, he was lying flat out on his back on the edge of the penalty area. I didn't see exactly what happened but it was quickly deemed serious, and the St John Ambulance staff were summoned to bring a stretcher. They appeared to be out for a leisurely stroll as they ambled across the pitch, and Duckworth eventually left the scene after about five minutes of treatment which would ultimately prove decisive. 

Ravenhill collected the ball outside our box but his shot sailed over the bar. Dickenson for the home side put a header wide of the mark while Williams had a shot blocked for us. Town then put a left-footed effort into the crowd while another attempt was saved by Flinders in the centre of his goal. Hackett was put through but was flagged offside while Walton was warned for a trip near the centre circle. Cobblers' imposing No.9 swivelled on a ball in the box but his attempt cleared the bar. Collins dealt well with a ball played through our middle and Walker made a great tackle to avert a dangerous situation on our right. 

"The Cardinal Rule is to try to keep things tight for the first ten minutes or so but Pools don’t always play by the rules"
Their big No.7 ran through our defence but drove his shot straight at Flinders while Burgess and their No.9 decided to “have a discussion”. Entering “Duckworth time”, Holden was booked for an innocuous nudge on McSweeney who staggered backwards as if he had just walked onto a right hook. The subsequent cross cleared our defence but was met by the onrushing Widdowson who returned the ball to the far post with the inside of his left foot where it was nodded home from close range. There was still time for another header to clear our left post before the half-time whistle blew.
The second half started with Walker putting a weak left-footer past the post. The Cardinal Rule is to try to keep things tight for the first ten minutes or so but Pools don’t always play by the rules and a long ball found a Cobblers attacker in acres of space on the right flank where he had time aplenty to deliver a cross into the centre and the resulting header was tucked away for Town’s second. 

Walton, finding space on the edge of their area, unleashed a low left-footed drive which skimmed the surface and avoided the sprawling keeper only to strike the far post. Northampton continued to apply pressure but their efforts were mostly wide of the mark or hit straight at Flinders. Williams cut inside their defence but his shot couldn’t beat their keeper. 

The impressive Hackett had a right-footed drive from outside the box blocked before Williams retaliated with a left-footed shot which was saved in the middle of the box, closely followed by one from his right which met the same fate. 

With twenty five minutes left on the watch, Cooper decided to make two substitutions, bringing on Franks for the ineffective Harewood and Compton for Barmby. Walton received a yellow card on the edge of their box after joining in an attack while at the other end, Dickenson placed his drive just past our left stick. Walker hit a cross well wide but Williams skipped past two defenders before unleashing a blistering drive which was heading for the top corner before their keeper brought off an excellent save and turned it away for a corner. He was then booked for a silly trip, no doubt borne out of frustration, as his opponent was running nowhere. To compound his woe, Williams seemed to turn his ankle after taking on a defender, ironically at the identical spot which had earlier claimed Duckworth. The final whistle brought the curtain down on a day to forget for Pools.

That was a most disappointing result, particularly the manner in which it occurred. Pools never left their coach and ‘played’ with a lack of self-belief, barely able to string two passes together. They were too soft against a team of very tall lads who won headers all over the pitch and who played with energy and strength if not overly blessed in the guile department. Northampton were not a good side, equally capable of scrappy play and misplaced passes, but they deserved their win and put their chances away and kept us out on the few occasions when we threatened and in Hackett, they had the man of the match.

For Pools, Burgess was the shining light and Collins put in a decent shift as well. Walton covered most of the pitch and tried to inject some desire into the side, albeit with a customary misplaced pass or three. I don’t know what effect the injury to Duckworth had on the team but Holden on the opposite flank had a poor afternoon as he was never tight on his opponent, giving them time and space to deliver telling crosses. Barmby, despite some neat footwork, flatters to deceive and Walker was largely anonymous. Williams is a class act but this was not one of his better days which was unfortunate as this was to be the last time he would pull on a Pools shirt. James was isolated up front although he still exuded enthusiasm, making runs and harrying their defence.

A mention for Mr Darren Lord, the referee, who made some strange decisions, not exactly news to Pools fans. He was not averse to stopping play for indiscernible offences while allowing far beefier challenges to go unpunished. Why, he even admonished the relatively diminutive James for three or four fouls on Northampton’s giants in the first half!

Speaking to a Cobblers fan while waiting for the bus back to the station, he said he felt that they would have been relegated had Boothroyd stayed in charge as he was trying unsuccessfully to get them to play football. He thought that Wilder, with his more direct style, had been brought in as he has experience of getting teams out of the Conference, should that be their fate.

Only two trains and a relatively short distance meant that, for once, my journey was uneventful. The railway had the last laugh though as the ticket issued to me for the outward journey wouldn’t let me in while the ticket for my return wouldn’t allow me out through the barrier either.


Funny Old Game

As I Seen It - Torquay (h)

RUNNING MONKEY on an easy win that wasn't

POOLS 3  Torquay United 0 League 2, at the VicSaturday March 1st 2014

After a quiet week of reflection in Ditchburn, the Ditchburn Poolie was full of the joys of spring on this fine February day at the Vic ready for the visit of the league's bottom team Torquay, after last weeks away visit to the other bottom team Northampton where the word was that Pools never turned up, in a two-nil shocker where we were just awful.

Today was the chance to put things back on track and we really needed a lift. The Ditchburn reference on today’s man in black was that he was once kicked off the Football League List of referees, but somehow made his way back on. I suppose his punishment was long trips like today, having hauled himself all the way from Essex to officiate this game. 

The Ditchburn says he has produced 60 yellow cards this season and one red so we did not know what to expect. Pools started bright enough and young Walker made a great run and was able to feed Luke who lost possession just as he was about to shoot. Holden also had a shot saved. At the other end Ned made a good save after Barmby lost possession just outside the box.

Shortly after there was a bit of a scuffle after Ned took a low shot and the attacker kicked out at the Pools keeper as he was on the floor. It was dangerous play and Monky and Burgess ran to his aid as Showunmi started to throw his weight about but Frederic the ref just calmed the situation, but a card should have been shown for the kick at the keeper and for Showunmi placing his hands on Pools players in a threatening manner. 

Monky went into one of his flash dance tackles and looked to be injured, but it looked to me that he laid low after jumping in covering the fact that he did just that and was lucky to get away with it. Twenty minutes gone and the visitors were looking to be the better side, as they had some good players and got out wide and made good use of their crosses. Pools needed to step up their game and they did just that. Monky made a great run after Walker set him free with a great pass. The ball was knocked out wide to Richards who sent a cross back in and some good play by Harewood set up Barmby who had very little room to move in he made a quick turn and hit his shot over the keeper.  Ned made two great stops, one a long-range effort, and a point blank shot from Benyon from inside the six-yard box that he held well.

We have played teams off the park at times and come away with nothing but today for long periods of the first half we were second best but were one nil up. The visitors I thought had edged the first half despite our goal and came on strong towards the end of the half, Ned making some good saves to take us into the break one up.

There was a bit of pressure on us at the start of the second half as they pushed for an equalizer but Sam who was the Ditchburn choice for  man-of-the-match battled hard as did Burgess against Showunmi who is a handful at any level.

A good run by Luke gave himself a chance but his shot went just wide. At the other end a blatant dive by Benyon was ignored by the ref and once again Pools broke free and Barmby tried his luck but hit it over the bar. Barmby again won a corner down the Millhouse side and a brilliant header from Luke left the keeper scrambling as the ball dropped in the goal to make it two nil to the Hartlepool. This set the nerves jangling in the visitors and a few choice tackles were flying in. Once again Luke took the brunt of this special treatment as he was flattened with monotonous regularity every time he made a run, but the ref ignored it once again.
"it was odd to see a team three nil down take off the two players that were having any success"

Ned had to make another good stop after a blatant handball by a Torquay player was waived and he raced through on goal and a good block by Sam saved a free shot on goal. Marlon scored his debut goal for the third and he was delighted. He broke away on his own from the half way line as the visitors tried to push for a goal and he raced at the keeper one on one and feigned to pass the ball left, committing the keeper, then nutmegged him to make the game three nil to the Hartlepool. He certainly enjoyed his celebration. 

The Torquay centre half went into a tackle with Monky and got up shoving him around, as we all know Monky is not one to back down and the ref had to part half a dozen players from the melee. The next tackle again saw the defender go for Monky, who just stepped over his tackle and let fly at the goal, with a shot which went over the bar. Luke, chasing a ball down near the Town End corner flag, sidestepped his man who had been laying him out all afternoon, but lost the ball and like a Jack Russell he turned his man, nicked the ball from him and raced on into the box but his shot went wide. We had a succession of subs and it was odd to see a team three nil down take off the two players that were having any success against us, Benyon and Showumni, but it was good to see us get the three points even if the stats might show they had more of the play overall. But it is goals that count.

Man-of-the-match was given to Walker who had a decent game but the Ditchburn was right - it should have gone to Sam. Some good performances today but collectively we did give the ball away a little too easily which accounted for most of the pressure we saw on us. 

The Ditchburn Breeches
The Ditchburn claims we need two more like that and we are safe. He also said we should then forget about loan players and take a long hard look at what we have on the books now. Let the fans see what these players can do and let the fans judge for themselves who we keep and who we jettison in time for the next campaign. We have some very good young talent who can do a job for us but if you leave them in the stiffs surely they will not develop and we will never know.

One thing I would request is that the man with the fancy dan strides brings his own lucky charm with him “Cousin Ditchburn” who has 100% record in his visits to the Vic this season, notching up three wins and three draws to date. So long as he does not have to wear the Ditchburn strides. The truth of the matter is the original Ditchburn just dropped that little challenge in with the hope that Pools would score three against Newport so he could actually have an excuse to wear those Technicolor (TM) breeches.

Any Other Business


Strange old season
Well, at last Pools crept into the top half of the league, but getting to the playoffs now seems to be extremely difficult with the number of matches remaining. However, that season in which Pools got to the playoffs at Exeter by winning their sixth consecutive match proved that mathematical possibility is still possibility, so who knows where we'll be next month. And for anyone who believes that such things can be more than just mere coincidence, the last match of the season once again involves Pools playing Exeter.

Of course the sudden defection of Craig Hignett back to the Boro may have a drastic effect if Higgy was the motivator at Pools. Tactics and fitness should all be sorted by this time of the season, so it's all about motivation from now on. Which is perhaps why Boro wanted him now. 

A reader has passed on a link to an interesting article.
It's written by a Poolie giving his take on the best Pools goal he ever saw. 
Read it here:


The author has provided this update to his piece about the Mail's age obsession.

Just for the record I managed to get my hands on the last copy of the Hartlepool Mail from my local newsagent. I said it was unusual to be down to the last paper at 6.30 in the evening. "Not really" said the shop assistant "we only get a dozen copies in at a time."

Straight to the back page to see if they mention Colin Cooper's age. Even though there was no mention of it they did mention that Marlon Harwood was 34. However not to be defeated, I looked in the centre pages and there was Colin Cooper's age, and I quote: " 'it was a lovely finish from Jack' said the 47 year old." They even got his age correct. However they didn't stop there. The Mail also quoted Luke James: " 'it was a wonderful finish by Jack' said the 20 year old."

Having nothing better to do I actually had a quick look at the rest of the Mail and if you exclude the Twos Company/Lonely hearts section of the paper I counted some 23 occasions when someone's age was mentioned. Gus Poyet is 41. Some chap who runs a post office is 55 and some gadgee who stole two joints of meat from Morrisons is 36.

I didn't dare look at the horse racing section of the paper for fear that they had the age of each animal.
From now on I think that all Monkey Business contributors should highlight the age of anyone that they are writing about.

Billy's Contract, aged 18 

And finally here's another couple of Bill the Biro's pics from Northampton.

The first one shows the rest of the Northampton Lighthouse (it's a lot taller than any real lighthouse), and the second one shows how much of the pitch you can see without paying to get in. Perhaps that's another reason why Coventry City's home crowds are so pathetic (they play their home matches at Sixfields).

View of Sixfields Stadium from the top of the bank