Showing posts from November, 2014


POOLS 2 - EAST THURROCK UTD 0   FA Cup  Saturday 8th November 2014

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at The Vic


All the omens were there, up for the cup or a slip on the banana skin for Pools. The weather was awful on the way to the ground which made slip ups easy. 

Another visiting team turned us round in the first half once again taking away the advantage of us kicking down bank the second half. The Ditchburn Poolie knew little about the ref other than he was a non-league ref who would obviously favour the non-league side. 

East Thurrock sounds like a Scottish team but hail from darkest southern England. As some who had seen the previous evening's Warrington v Exeter game would have already realised, non-league football is of a better quality these days and we could be in for a tough afternoon. 

The opening exchanges were even and Thurrock were the first to try their luck with a long range shot after some good play from them. They came straight back at Pools after a wayward pass from Jones but the shot was wide of the mark. The Ditchburn thought the lad in goal for Thurrock looked about sixteen and a bit girlish in his pink strip, but this kid was good and brave to boot. 

Duckworth was the early star for Pools as he carved opening after opening, which were parried by the visitors. Both Duckworth and Franks tested the keeper, who manfully held his ground against any threat we had. On the break Thurrock almost took the lead with a great shot that had Ned beat but fortunately hit the post and bounced across the goalmouth and away. It was a typical end-to-end cup game as Thurrock again came back at Pools with some good passing football, something we lacked at times. 

The Ministry of Useless Information (Ditchburn) was trying to confuse me by telling anyone who would listen that about four hundred years ago Pools used the same strip as three other football teams. Don’t ask me why. 

Another Pools attack saw their keeper nick the ball off the head of Marlon, but the visitors looked like a very capable side. A long-range drive from Thurrock had Ned scrambling at his near post and he was lucky as he fumbled the ball round the post. As the game was progressing quotes of four-nil or a nil all draw were all that the pundits and Ditchburn could offer. Seeing as the Ditchburn had brought his lucky charm, cousin Keith, who has yet to see us get beat. He is a rare visitor to the Vic so I was hopeful. 

Schmeltz was a good foil for Marlon and he set up a good chance for Richards whose header sailed over the bar. Thurrock played good football and were a tight unit going forward. In fact at times they played better football than Pools, in particular their number ten, who was a thorn in the Pools side throughout the game. 

On the half hour mark we were struggling to get the ball clear and under a lot of pressure from the visitors. Franks broke the deadlock as Pools broke away from their own box and for once Franks, racing into the box, did not need that extra touch he invariably needs and hit a low shot past the diving Thurrock keeper. Once the goal was scored Pools seemed to settle and Duckworth, in good form, took the game to the visitors. 

Thurrock did not take long to get back in their stride and Ned was forced to make another good save from a strong Thurrock shot. Walker has not been the leading light we expected despite scoring last week he looked lethargic at times and along with quite a few of his team mates who had difficulty finding a team mate with a pass at times. "I bet Russ Green ...asked the keeper to give him a ring on Monday because he was the outstanding player in this cup-tie."

There was a foul on Walker as he shepherded the ball back to Flinders. He was sideswiped by the Thurrock centre forward who was obviously frustrated by the lack of real chances coming his way. Just before the break their keeper made two great stops from Marlon, one a drive from the edge of the box when Marlon tried to head the rebound back in but the young keeper made another superb save. 

The second half was a better show from the home side but we still lacked that killer instinct, Schmeltz had a great chance after Marlon set him up but his poor scuffed shot let him down. Featherstone impressed today and looks to be a handy signing, not afraid to have a shot when the opportunity is there. Walker, Duckworth and Schmeltz all had shies at the goal and were either high, wide or blocked by the inspired keeper. 

Buoyed by our lack of success in front of goal the visitors again came at Pools in numbers just when most of us were hoping they might tire and run out of steam but give them their due if this was going to be their cup final they were not going to go quietly and they really looked dangerous with some good flowing football. 

Marlon had the chance to settle the fans but once again the young keeper kept him at bay with a super diving save. Franks was very lucky with the second goal as Marlon out wide sent a cross into a crowded box. The cross was just a little high for the Thurrock keeper and he got his palms to it and it dropped perfectly behind him for Franks to hit it home. 

So Pools go into the hat and will probably draw Warrington away. But the two thousand eight hundred fans applauded both teams off the pitch after a great cup fight, which, to be honest, either team deserved to win on the day. It was a nice touch when the match sponsors voted Hughes, the Thurrock goalkeeper, man of the match. I bet Russ Green as he presented the lad with a watch asked the keeper to give him a ring on Monday because he was the outstanding player in this cup-tie. 

After the match the Thurrock lads, who stopped at Bradford to train on the way up ,were off on their coach to sample the night life at the Bigg market in the Toon before making their way back to the deep south. And they thoroughly deserved it.

Good Times Ahead

A bit of optimism from WAGGA MOON

Rock bottom going into the Newport game and the only way is up. Now that Colin Cooper has done the sensible thing and jumped before he was pushed we can surely look forward to better times ahead. 

Cooper may or may not be a reasonable coach but he will never make a football manager. He will go down as one of the worst-ever Pools managers along with Bob Gurney, Bill Robinson, Geoff Twentyman, Viv Busby, Mick Docherty, Ken Hale, Bobby Moncur and Keith Houchen. His preoccupation with anything Borer certainly helped lead to his downfall and his signings and tactics left a lot to be desired. 

All the fans and even Cooper himself knew a striker was our No 1 priority yet he would sign any right back or midfielder he could find. On losing his reserve goalkeeper Andy Rafferty at the start of the season he never replaced him. Likewise our best defender and striker who also were not replaced. Whether this was down to him or someone higher up we don't know but if he hasn't the balls to speak up and tell the fans then we will blame him. His last act as a manager was to sign a Boro, yes you guessed it, midfielder David Atkinson on loan for a month and the guy played zero minutes before returning from where he came. What a stupid waste of a loan and that in itself should have been a sacking offence. Having said that he signed two goalkeepers on loan and I believe neither of them was given a try. This when Scott Flinders is getting worse game by game. 

We then had Sam Collins in a caretaker role when most fans would have given the role to Tommy Miller. Collins proceeded to lose four games and beat what was virtually an Exeter reserve team away from home. His biggest mistake was to banish Marlon Harewood to the bench and then out of the picture completely. Now Marlon has not been exactly prolific but has had virtually no service and being our only striker and with our dismal goal-scoring record this was the mistake that cost Collins the opportunity of the manager's job on a permanent basis. "Cooper may or may not be a reasonable coach but he will never make a football manager"

So it is back to the playing side for Collins although not for long going by his abject display at Cambridge. With the turning circle of an ocean-going cruise liner and the speed of my old gran he is certainly not the answer to our defensive problems. Harewood, on the other hand, came on for the second half and transformed the team and had the Cambridge defenders at panic stations. With the staff we have available Harewood would always be the first name on my starting XI. 

There is no doubt Ken Hodcroft has taken a massive gamble on appointing another rookie manager in our present position and if it does not work out he will get slaughtered. But I will say here and now I am 100 per cent backing his decision. If there was one untried manager to appoint it would be Paul Murray, who should never have been allowed to leave the club in the first place. And bringing in Willie Donachie to work with him is some great thinking. I think this pair can turn things around for us big time and the only way is up. Although they will need some cash to improve the squad and I think Murray will look further afield than his predecessor and this can only be a good thing. 

The consultancy panel formed to help Ken with the managerial appointment failed to materialise. The representative from a little-known message board that the club was alleged to have joined failed to make the first meeting. Evidently when he went to get his bike from the shed some scoundrel had let his tyres down and had it away with the bike pump. 

And Pools even got a superb draw in the FA Cup first round which doesn't usually happen. The only easier draw than East Thurrock at home would have been the Ragged Arse Rovers away. There will be no excuse for us not despatching the TOWIE wannabes in no uncertain manner even though they will have more front than Amy Childs. Let's hope this is the start of a lucrative run in the Cup competition and maybe a nice televised tie on the Beeb to come.

Funny Old Game

Drinking in the Last Chance Saloon

GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY muses on the situation

The appointment of Paul Murray and Willie Donachie is effectively the last throw of the dice in saving our Football League status - at least on the field. Paul Murray comes to the club with the good will of the supporters who recall his sterling performances for Pools after being signed by Mick Wadsworth. 

In some respects, his hands are tied - the transfer window doesn’t open until the New Year and he has to scout around for released players who are without a club. In terms of the loan market he and Willie Donachie will have varying contacts instead of relying on the Middlesbrough connection to shore up our failing team. Some of the Middlesbrough players definitely improved the side - Matty Dolan and Christian Burgess would fall into that category and Charlie Wyke has not disgraced himself. 

Colin Cooper also suffered the handicap of losing two key players - Jack Baldwin and Luke James - and James has certainly proved well nigh impossible to replace. (By the way, James seems to be having trouble finding the net at Peterborough - how about a short term loan!!) Still, allowing Paul Murray to bring in an experienced assistant could bode well for Pools. We will all wish them the best of luck. I know that Paul Murray will show the same commitment as manager that he showed as a player.

Yet, it is events off the field which fill me with a sense of foreboding. The latest war of words between Ken Hodcroft and Hartlepool Borough Council over the sale of Victoria Park and the rent review could be the death knell for Pools. It does seem to me that if Pools do lose their league status and IOR withdraw their support then the Council are going to get the blame - and yet there seems to be no urgency on their part to take the issue seriously. Don’t forget, its going to be May when the crisis could hit us and what you might say is the significance of May 2015? Well, that’s when the local and general elections take place and I’m sure that Iain Wright would prefer to concentrate on real issues rather than defend the council over its relations with Pools. 

Personally, I’ve always thought that the performance of a local football club in relation to a town’s prosperity/standing is always over-estimated. During the 1980s, when Liverpool were the dominant club in England the city had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Some clubs certainly do bring quite a few supporters with them and spend money in the town - recent examples being Portsmouth and Luton - but on the other side of the coin clubs like Newport County and Dagenham and Redbridge hardly fill a couple of rows in the Rink End.

"My nightmare scenario would be for us and Carlisle to fight out the second to last spot in League Two at the end of the season. And who do we play in our last game?"
Hopefully, both parties in the dispute will see sense and let us get back to the basics - and that’s football. IOR have been a force for good and have been at the helm in some of Pools’ finest hours. As I’ve said in a previous MB, getting out of the Conference will not be easy. Just look at Luton: gates of around 8,000 and it took them years to get back into the Football League. Still, by putting a run together we can climb to safety. My nightmare scenario would be for us and Carlisle to fight out the second to last spot in League Two at the end of the season. And who do we play in our last game? Away to Carlisle! Won’t be for the faint-hearted.

Lots has been happening elsewhere. Manuel Pellegrini seems to amaze me with some of his excuses. Last month, after the Champions League game against CSKA Moscow, I caught the following headline in the Daily Telegraph: "Caught Cold:Pellegrini blames freezing conditions as City pay the penalty." Yikes! How on earth would his players cope at Pools if we draw them in the third round of the FA Cup? 

I always remember, some years ago, Dave Bassett discussing Nigerian players who had performed well in the 1998 World Cup. Whilst he admitted they would enhance the quality of any side he’d want to know how they’d perform in Hartlepool in the middle of winter. Good logic!

And then we’ve got the thoughts of the Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho. After the home game against Crystal Palace last week, he complained about the lack of atmosphere at Stamford Bridge. Maybe he was right but the fact is that clubs like Chelsea are more interested in hospitality packages and getting tourists in from far flung places than the ordinary fans. There’s nothing wrong with hospitality packages as such - but a balance must be stuck. Wasn’t it Roy Keane who derided the prawn sandwich brigade at Old Trafford?

Then there was the case of the drone in the Serbia v Albania game which ended up in a pitched battle between the Serbian and Albanian players and the Albanian players having to run for safety from the Serbian fans who invaded the pitch. How on earth UEFA sanctioned these two nations meeting together is beyond me - particularly in view of the Sebia/Kosovo conflict. All this leads me to pose a serious question: what happens when a regulatory body cocks things up? Who calls them to account? It’s the same as the FA when they organise international matches and the Cup Final at Wembley. If there’s a pitch invasion or someone throws something on the pitch, who does the referee complain to? It's worth a thought.

Mr. Turner

IOR In the Dock

even BILLY'S CONTRACT is speaking out

On the plaque above the Centenary wall is the mission statement  ''Remember the past, Imagine the future,''

Not many Poolies would, I wager, dare to imagine what the future holds for our beloved club at this present time. The way things are going we could end up swapping places with Darlo and playing in the Jumpers-for-Goalposts or Next-Goal-the-Winner League. 

For all their faults and strange ways, and some of them are bloody strange ways, I have never openly criticised IOR in this column, but ultimately they must shoulder the bulk of the blame for what has gone wrong with our club.

May 2005 seems a long time ago and despite the defeat in The Play Off Final at Cardiff the future looked rosy indeed for my club. 

When IOR took over the reins from Harold Hornsey it has got to be said that with their support and drive it allowed the likes of Chris Turner, Ritchie Humphreys and the other back room staff to transform the club from a Music Hall joke to a slick professionally-run outfit which was the envy of many other football league clubs. I will never forget the chairman of Notts County, saying in the press, after 'Pools had nipped in to sign Richie Barker from under their noses that they could not compete with a team like Hartlepool. This was reflected in the many players that the likes of Chris Turner/Mike Newell/Neale Cooper and, dare I say it, Martin Scott signed for 'Pools from all four corners of the United Kingdom. Nowadays we are signing players from all four corners of the labour exchange.

 Back in the day Hartlepool United was an attractive destination for many a footballer's signature.

However IOR have a dark side. 
Example: Despite gaining  promotion Mike Newell's services were dispensed with pretty much after after the open top bus parade around the town.
Example: The craziest decision ever made in football, (apart from the FA not giving Brian Clough the England manager's job) was when IOR sacked Neale Cooper and appointed Martin Scott as manager on the eve of the crucial last match of the season away at Bournemouth to clinch a play off place. As history tells us Scotty managed to lose the final and get the club relegated the following season.
"The way things are going we could end up swapping places with Darlo and playing in the Jumpers-for-Goalposts or Next-Goal-the-Winner League."

In many ways IOR remind me of Margaret Thatcher. Yes, agreed that she sorted out the mess the country was in, won a war, then started to believe she could do no wrong and then would not listen to anyone's advice or opinion but her own, and and ended up falling on her own sword.

IOR have done a lot of good but like Mrs.T they want things done their way or not at all. An example being in the manner which several years ago that they tried to bully the Corner Flag into giving up their premises so the football club could avail themselves of those facilities.

I recall a time when there was once a great rapport between the club's fans and the players. IOR however knocked that on the head by banning the players from popping into the Corner Flag or accepting prizes at award ceremonies other than those organised by the club. (Which admittedly they did very well).

Can anyone remember when was the last time there was a question and answer session with a Hartlepool United Manager (Neale Cooper first time around?) No sooner had John Hughes suggested such an event he was given a non-return bus ticket back to the highlands of Scotland.

Then we have the ongoing saga about buying Victoria Park from the Council. Whilst few would deny that our Council are not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree lights, I would not disagree that the Council should get the best price they can possible for the ground on behalf of the town's ratepayers and scroungers alike, even if the Council do decide to blow the money on increased councillors' allowances. 

What I do object to though, is Ken Hodcroft blaming the current on-the-pitch problems on the Council for not selling the ground to IOR for peanuts. 

Sometimes  as fans we complain about the deafening silence from IOR but then on occasions when they open their mouths they don't look too clever. Ken has recently announced that IOR have taken their bat and ball home and are refusing to talk to the Council over the purchase of the ground,  which is very grown up indeed and will get both parties nowhere. ''It is good to talk'' declared the old British Telecom advert. Even Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness ended up talking to each other in the hope of progress. Take note Mr Hodcroft.

Then we have Ken bleating on week in and week out about how there is no money available for team improvements as the club would be breaking league rules relating to wage structures versus crowd attendances/gate receipts. I'm sorry but that does not wash with me. Surely our wage bill has been significantly reduced as in the last couple of seasons we have given free transfers to all our high wage earners Ritchie/Monkey/ Horwood /Sweeney/ Walton and errr Howard. We have also lost Luke James/ Peter Hartley  and Luke James all who are no longer on the payroll and all who commanded sizeable transfer fees for the club. Whether it was Colin Cooper's or IOR's decision not to appoint a replacement for Craig Hignett until the close season , it must have put a few more coppers in Pools' coffers.

It is strange how other similar-sized football clubs have got around this problem. Look at the likes of Bury, currently in a play-off spot with crowds about the same as our own. Rochdale, a division above 'Pools and again in the play off zone with crowds of less than 4,000. Even Accrington Stanley who along with Dagenham and Redbridge are lucky to get crowds of 1,700 are currently well above 'Pools in the league placings. Ken should take note of these clubs and see (ask) how they have achieved success on a limited fan base.

The Chairman in his recent programme notes/Hartlepool Mail regarding Colin Cooper's resignation accused the fans of getting what they wished for when they were shouting for Colin Cooper's head. He was virtually blaming the fans for Cooper handing in his resignation. Then in the next breath almost in reflection he goes on to say that after all it was Cooper's team and his signings, and recent results had dictated that he would eventually walk.

Ken also said if the fans were not happy with him as Chairman that he was also prepared to go. If he did resign what then? All we would get is another puppet in a different suit spouting off  the same hymns from IOR's hymn book.

I am hoping that with the appointment of Paul Murray things may change. I would like to believe that Paul Murray is not a 'Yes man'  and that he  has an ''in house'' knowledge of how the owners operate and that he will work in conjunction with the owners for the  overdue success the team and the long-suffering fans deserve whilst at the same time not tolerating any nonsense from IOR regarding team matters. 

Some voices in the game recently made comment about the owners of Hartlepool United and the way that they run the football club. Autocratic management style on a Kim Jong Un model springs to my mind.

The day Colin Cooper left the pitch whilst the crowd were calling for his head, his wife made comment to the effect of 'You don't know the half of it', which would perhaps suggest in some ways Cooper's hands might have been tied and promises given were not kept.  Was it conceivable that once Craig Hignett had scampered back to Middlesbrough the board asked Colin Cooper to run the team without a number two until the end of the season to save money? 

 I was not exactly enamoured when Colin Cooper was appointed as first team manager of Pools, mainly because of his connections with Middlesbrough FC, who, in fairness to them, are perennial under-achievers (though they might prove me wrong at the end of this season), and are not exactly known for their sexy style of football.

So it proved, despite Colin Cooper telling the Daily Mail that Pools like to play their football on the deck, nothing could be further from the truth. For the majority of his tenure it was like watching a team jointly managed by Sam Allardyce and John Beck. 

Cooper's statement that he was going to bring in better players than those he released at the end of the previous season also proved unfounded. Instead we ended up with a couple of proven crocks from the Boro (jobs for the boys on mates rates?)

It was patently clear that Colin Cooper lacked one of the most essential qualities of a manager - a network of contacts within the game. It would appear he only had one contact in the game, the tea lady at M'bro FC.

I am firmly convinced that he thought that the furthest south the A19 reached was the Middlesbrough Junction at the Tees Flyover, as that is where all his signings came from.

To his credit he did bring in Michael Duckworth, and Luke Williams was the only decent Boro player he did sign on loan.

As I said previously in Monkey Business Colin 'eleven men back' Cooper's style of football was one dimensional without a plan 'B' and his managerial record backs this up. He narrowly, by the skin of his teeth,  avoided relegation last season and this season he would have had us relegated by Easter. I think that he found the step up from managing kids at Boro youth level to managing a football club at first team level a 'Transporter' bridge too far.

It would be fair to say that over the last five seasons IOR have presided over Hartlepool Uniteds' decline and possible demise, one relegation battle after another.  Even with special offers for season tickets the crowds have dwindled  because no-one, no matter how cheap it is to get through the turnstile, wants to watch the poor quality football that we as 'Pools fans have been subjected to over the past few years.

In short IOR needs to make clear their intentions regarding their commitment to Hartlepool United Football Club. If they want the club to be successful then they should put their hands in their pockets. On the other hand if  they don't want any involvement with the club then they should put a For Sale notice up outside the ground (mind they would ask a daft price for it!) and move on.

Funny Old Game

As I Seen It - Luton Town (H)

RUNNING MONKEY sees Pools play well in parts

Pools 1  Luton Town 2
League Two, 
Victoria Park, 
11th October, 2014

Another nostalgia moment today, as the seventh anniversary of the death of Michael Maidens was remembered with applause by the fans on twenty-five minutes. 

A more recent loss was also remembered: Rhys Hewitt the young English Martyrs School pupil who lost his life this week in a road accident. There was a huge presence of school children in the crowd today and it has to be said they did the lad proud not only for the applause on fourteen minutes but for their actions throughout the game. They behaved impeccably and it was good to see a section of the visiting Luton fans join in the applause for both the lads lost.

The unchanged Pools side looks a more balanced side since Sam took over, and the football is so much better to watch. It makes you wonder just how negative Cooper had been in his selection and tactics for the recent games before his departure. 

Charlie Wyke looks a different player and it was Charlie that had the first real crack in the opening exchanges. He hit a belter on the turn and the keeper did well just to block it away. It was a good positive start by Pools and we looked as a home side should, taking the game to the visitors. Brobbel is a class player and was mobbed by Luton every time he got the ball. He was a thorn in their side all afternoon and almost opened the scoring with a screamer from out wide that looked from the Town End to have skimmed the bar. 

The Ditchburn Poolie and I finally agreed on a point of football. That was that young Jim Lad ARRRRGGGH Hawkins would become a top player. The kid oozes skill and is never afraid to take someone on, and his work rate chasing back and winning vital tackles is second to none. 

Mpanzu the Luton striker could have been a good player if only for the fact that he whined and cried for pity every time he was hit by a tackle. In fact it was through his histrionics that Pools had the extra time at the end of the game to dent their pride a little with a late penalty. Speaking of which, Wyke deserved a penalty on the half hour mark as he was taken down three yards inside the box but Mr. Tierney and his assistant were both looking the other way. "Not totally disgraced as we played well in parts and if you play well in parts and lose then the fans are happy."

Tierney, who has “I have reffed in the Premiership” syndrome, tried to "let the game flow" as they say up there. The trouble with that is they ignore the rules of the game, selectively I mean. Apparently you can elbow a centre forward all day and get away with it if you play in a tangerine shirt. But if you dare step out of line when you are wearing blue and white stripes then you are going to be penalised all day. Luton were particularly physical in the line up for free kicks, at times it looked like that American all star wrestling show. 

I am still not sure if Bates is a true Poolie yet as he seems half-hearted at times and despite winning a decent header in their box and spraying the ball around a little he is lacking in what you might call “FIZZ”. I suppose it comes with age. On the other hand I remarked to the Ditchburn how Tommy Miller had raised his game recently, you still see the odd snap ball that is miss-hit but overall his play has improved. 

Luton were quick on the break and they caught us out with a good move up field. I thought the scorer was possibly just offside, seeing as I was closer to him than both the useless ref, who was always behind the game, and the linesman, who gave us nowt all day, and both allowed the play to continue with Flinders having the ignominy of having a ball pushed through his legs for the opening goal. 

There were some full-blooded tackles from Luton who were desperate to preserve their lead and a free kick from one of these led to a Brobbel free kick that went close as the first half ended. 

Apart from a short spell at the beginning, Luton were all over us for most of the second half. They had a definite goal chance cleared off the line following a free kick. The second Luton goal was difficult to judge from the far end but we could see it coming all through the half. We were unable to emulate the pressure we put on them in the first half and found ourselves on the back foot for long periods of the game. 

The Ditchburn, who as you know is a statistician on football, especially Pools, noted that the number twenty-eight for Luton had spent seventy two minutes warming up. We thought this lad is trying too hard to get on, and was not going to catch the eye of his manager - he looked paggered. On he comes and with what could have been his first touch put them two nil up. Finally the Premiership idleness had worn off Mr. Tierney and he started to apply himself to his real job and gave us a penalty after a trip on Walker. I was closer to the incident than he was this time too. Aussie stepped up and gave us little lift. But it was on ninety-one minutes by then and after a few loon hoofs from both sides the game ended in defeat for the home side. Not totally disgraced as we played well in parts and if you play well in parts and lose then the fans are happy.

Rumour was that the owner Mr. Larsen was at the game today, and had his yearly game of footy at the Vic yesterday, As I have never set eyes on the man I can only pass on the rumour but again the "in jail" quote did come up. Also you will all have heard a version of the Chairman’s take on the trouble recently at the Vic over walkouts and anti-board campaigns. He did mention the policing of some games and the facts that the Council are against selling the ground and they are putting the rent up, and the comment that those who want to see the back of the owners may get their wish soon. 

So get your road maps ready for the Conference League you lucky people.

Referee 2020

BILLY'S CONTRACT has been giving thought to the future of refereeing in the modern world

As I Seen It - Cambridge (A)

ALREET on an old haunt revisited

Cambridge United 2 Pools 1 
League Two, 
Abbey Stadium, 
25th October, 2014

A lot had changed since I watched Pools in action against Luton Town only a week ago so it was with a mixture of realism and a hope for signs of green shoots that I approached the Abbey Stadium. It is several years since I last visited here but my initial impression was that little had changed. 

Reaching the visitors' area, however, I saw the old terracing behind the South End has now been replaced by a new all-seater stand. This end is reached by using a winding path that runs from the Newmarket Road and borders an area of grass which, in turn, follows the line of a small stream on the far side. As I joined the path, I had to negotiate my way over a cattle grid and noticed a water tank at the top end of the field. All became clear when I spoke to a home ‘volunteer’ who was offering fans a sweet from her tin of Cadbury Heroes and she said that the field is usually occupied by longhorn cattle. 

Before taking my seat, I had a chat with their programme seller who added that the cattle could also be spotted on green areas near to the city centre as the farmer had permission to graze them under an ancient by-law. Discussing Pools current plight with him, he said of the Conference: “You don’t want to go there”. Apart from the loss of Sky cash etc., we could forget about away fans and unless any young talent was secured, we would be unable to receive anything for them if they moved on. A sobering thought to take with me as I went off to watch the game.

Pools would be playing towards the home end in the first half but the ref had hardly blown his whistle to start the game when he had to blow it again. We conceded a free kick in the opening seconds courtesy of a hearty tackle from Crooks before the ball had a chance to clear the centre circle. Their keeper took the kick which was put behind for a corner but the resulting header was wide of the mark. A long ball found Franks wide on our right but, in attempting to weave his way around a couple of defenders, he only succeeded in losing the ball. 

A Wyke challenge on the halfway line resulted in a United free kick from which Duckworth was bypassed by two attackers but their cross was put out for a corner. A quick Pools counter-attack cut open the home defence but Crooks was just beaten to the ball by Dunn in the home goal. Austin was given a yellow card for a foul on ten minutes as Pools were coming under increasing pressure. We couldn’t keep possession and were having to defend resolutely to maintain a clean sheet. 
"Fortunately, a different Pools emerged after the break and we started to knock the ball about and forced the home side onto the back foot."

Walker showed a brief spark of retaliation when he played a long ball upfield from around the left touchline which the onrushing Franks just failed to connect with outside the far post. On twenty five minutes, a long ball from inside United’s half escaped a Pools challenge and found Sam backpedaling towards the corner flag. Although at the far end, my initial thought was that he could (and, as it transpired, should) have put the ball into Row Z but the ball went past him where it was collected by Donaldson (naturally) who fired the ball past Duckworth’s covering tackle and Flinders into the far corner. 

They almost scored a second when we scrambled the ball away only for Chadwick to put a tame shot straight at Flinders. Crooks then tried his luck from around twenty yards but his effort was blocked and diverted out for a corner. A deep cross from our left evaded Franks at the far post as the whistle sounded to close a very poor half for Pools.

The second half saw the introduction of Mighty Marlon for the ineffectual Brobbel. I was quite surprised by his re-emergence as only a few days earlier, he supposedly hadn’t "shown enough in training to warrant a return to the first team" or words to that effect. Whatever, Austin found Crooks who played a long ball down our left flank from which we won a corner but this proved fruitless. We then managed to string a five man move together but the ball again ended up in a harmless corner. 

This was far better than the preceding fare but things were a bit too rushed. There followed a separate game of head tennis which consisted of about seven or eight touches around the halfway line. Walker received the ball outside the penalty area and drilled in a shot which Dunn punched over from underneath his bar. Pools were beginning to string several passes together and starting to pose a threat to the home goal. 

Harewood won a corner which was cleared then Duckworth had to head the ball behind for a corner at the other end. Collins couldn’t connect properly from a Franks corner as the ball swung back upfield. Harewood chased a ball to the United goal line, then outmuscled two defenders before squaring the ball across the penalty box where it was met by Walker, who took a touch and cracked it home past the diving Dunn. This was just reward for two players who have been out of the side in recent weeks. From a Franks corner, Walker was then unlucky to see his header kept out by a defender standing on their line. 

Sam was leading by example at the back and we were beginning to look as if we might come away with a point. Franks was replaced by Smith and this was followed by Crooks receiving a booking for a foul. Crooks next move was to be substituted for Woods while Walker, who had grown in stature the longer the game progressed, got himself a yellow card for a nudge off the ball after it had been lost in midfield. 

Pools then conceded a free kick which was taken by Donaldson. He floated the ball in but their attacker was pulled up for clattering into Flinders and the danger passed. Harrison produced an impressive block to keep out a shot and Austin was penalized for a soft push but the resulting kick was headed wide for a goal kick. Walker got a shot away through a crowded area but it didn’t bother Dunn. 

Late in the game, we conceded a throw in on our left. The long throw was flicked on at our near post where the oddly named Harrison Dunk found himself between Sam and Duckworth and with a sharp swivel of his neck, thundered the ball past the helpless Flinders from six yards. We did manage a final scramble in the United penalty area but it came to nothing and Pools finished the game pointless once again.

Cambridge fielded the obligatory League Two team of seven foot plus giants and their tough style ensured that they comfortably ran the first half while we lacked punch and were restricted to long, hopeful punts without anyone being able to keep the ball under sustained home pressure. Our general play was scrappy and passes regularly went astray. We gave them too much space at times and their opening goal could have been avoided. In all seriousness, there was precious little to write about from a Pools perspective. 

Fortunately, a different Pools emerged after the break and we started to knock the ball about and forced the home side onto the back foot. We were able to press them in their own half which additionally had the effect of restricting any forays towards Flinders. I thought our defence were looking reasonably confident as the half wore on and, poor as we had been in the opening forty five minutes, I wouldn’t have been mightily surprised had we nicked a second goal. United had rarely threatened us but they had other ideas and their long throw changed all that. Once again though, we had two opportunities to clear he ball before Dunk was allowed his decisive free header. Paul Murray will have been given a deep insight into the long road which lies ahead.

Considering the bombardment we endured at times, Flinders wasn’t called into action that often and had a steady game in goal. Sam settled seamlessly back into defence and put his heart and soul into his role although I wasn’t too sure about his contribution towards both of their goals. Harrison looked solid alongside Sam, producing several decent blocks and winning important headers. Duckworth, understandably, wasn’t able to produce many of his attacking runs as we were pegged back but was more prominent in the second period while still performing his defensive duties. 

Austin was moved back to the wide left position to give the back line a familiar look. It was a standard performance from him and provided experience although I thought Jones had played well when I had watched him in recent games. Miller was another who was primarily employed on defensive duties as the pattern of play restricted his ability to play his passing game. My first sight of Crooks and he’s a big lad with bundles of enthusiasm as typified by his tackle straight from the kick off. He covered most of the pitch having been moved further forward and made some telling tackles, hit decent passes and managed to get some shots away. 

Brobbel found the going tough and was unable to get into the game. United’s style restricted his opportunities to run at them and he struggled to make an impact as a result. Franks played with spirit and chased lost causes but he runs with his head down which usually means ending up in no-man’s-land. Walker, I was happy to see, returned to something like the form which earned him a first team spot previously. He tackled well, provided decent balls around the pitch and was our most effective attacking option by far, having several shots on target. Wyke worked hard but found limited chances to impress. Harewood covered more grass than he must have done in all his previous appearances. He harassed their defenders and gave them something to think about, culminating in our goal but he will have to produce this and more with a goal or three thrown in if he is to force his way back into the team.

Premier B

KT POOLIE reports on a new movie

As I Seen It - Newport Co (h)

RUNNING MONKEY sees Pools fight back

Pools 2   Newport County 2
League Two, 
Victoria Park, 
1st November, 2014

The Ditchburn Poolie and I agreed to be on our best behaviour today as the Bizz CEO was making an appearance. The Ditchburn was true to his word having recently returned from a foreign holiday, looking tanned and spick and span for the occasion - well at least today he had his trousers on which was a good start. 

Once again the opposition won the toss and had us kicking down bank in the first half. This is a pet hate of mine as it takes away the advantage gained by kicking down bank second half when we have run the opponents ragged. No place for Master Bates again in the starting line up which included another new boy, Featherstone from Harrogate. Just maybe we are looking at the Conference next season. To be fair the lad did ok for his first game at the club. 

Franks set off like a train and after a great run tested their keeper with a stinging shot the keeper pushed away for a corner. Newport came straight back at us and Ned was equal to the Newport striker's powerful shot. This looked like it could be a good game, and with the rumour being that they had nine men out, I was looking for a cricket score. 

Discussing Franks even being in the starting line up we came to the conclusion that Muzzer had promised him a rocket for bonfire night, but weren't sure where he was going to place it if he let the manager down. As I have said before Charlie Wyke looks a different player this time round and was back deep looking for the ball and helping defend and racing into the box causing them problems, coming close with a header from another decent Franks cross. You cannot fault the lad, who genuinely leaves everything on the pitch. 

Franks must have taken heed of the rocket threat as he was making good crosses and shooting on sight when he had the opportunity. Marlon on the other hand looked about as dangerous as a lollipop lady with a feather duster. Franks who was having a good game sadly made one bloody awful howler when he, without looking, hit a back pass to the midfield area that was snapped up by Newport player, who had an open run on goal and it was one nil to the visitors. 

The CEO commented that we went one nil down at Cambridge and came back, then he remembered that Cambridge scored again. Although it had been an even game we can only blame ourselves for the situation, as some of our passing was woeful today. What has been obvious this season is that we are unable to exert any real pressure on teams and invariably lose momentum at the crucial time. This sets off some of the fans barracking players, which can only put more pressure on them, but it has to be said we are careless at times, which is disappointing. 

We did thankfully lift our game a bit in the second half but once again like Cambridge they scored another goal. Two gifted goals in one game are bad to see; not only are heads dropping but also the opposition take every advantage and start pressing for more. The second goal was a miss-kick from Sam who was playing really well and has done since his return, even today winning the Man-of-the- Match award. The scorer took great delight in taunting the Town End fans, which was not good to see. If someone had abused him this black player would probably be the first in with a complaint to the Football League. Two nil it was and Muzzer was looking down the barrel of a gun having lost out last week and mumbles of Murray out could be heard around the terrace. "Two gifted goals in one game are bad to see; not only are heads dropping but also the opposition take every advantage"

Another new signing Sidney Schmeltz joined the fray and this lad looks good, and an early shot from him made the Newport team think twice about sticking it to Pools, and started to hoof the ball over the stand out of play any way they could, as Pools started to pressure them a little. This panic in the Newport defence boiled over as in a Pools attack Harrison, who had a really good game today, went for a ball the keeper fumbled and all hell broke loose as the Newport team piled in and the Pools lads went to the defence of Harrison. The result of this little fracas was that one of their players got his marching orders having collected a second yellow, while Harrison was booked for the initial foul. 

Pools just had to take advantage of this sending off and found a lot more room. Duckworth laid a ball off for Harewood but he was too slow to react and it was cleared. Walker who had not had the best of games came up with a cracker from nowhere when he hit a ball into the top corner giving the keeper no chance. Two one and Pools were now in the hunt. Duckworth picked up a ball out wide and making one of his jinking runs found himself free in the box and hit a screamer past the Newport keeper giving Pools at least a point and a great lift in a game where they had been down and out. 

A never-say-die attitude was back as Pools went for them in the dying stages. Newport, under a lot of pressure, just hoofed it clear time and again getting all men behind the ball. Two all was probably a fair result on the day, but if there were any scouts here from next week’s opposition I hope they take back the message that Pools’ teams "Never say Die."

Funny Old Game

Any Other Business


For those who were wondering, this is what a ground looks like after a team that dropped out of the league for a few years has returned to League 2.

Actually not much different, as Cambridge's Abbey Stadium shows.

Abbey Stadium Cambridge

Reunion Poster 

Andy Wilson has told us about something that he's organising with the help of Phil Dunn for next May. That may sound a bit far off but we think it will be a very popular event so don't leave it too long if you're interested.

It is a Reunion evening with the Hartlepool United Squad of 2004/05, the year we all had a wonderful day out at Cardiff.

The event will be held at the Borough Hall, on the Headland, on Saturday 16th May 2015.

Tickets are only £200 for a table of ten, with a couple of tables that will accommodate smaller numbers if you only require 2, 4, 5, or any number smaller than 10.

Players and staff confirmed to date include; Micky Barron, Dimi, John Brackstone, Adam Boyd, Neale Cooper, Darren Craddock, Jon Daly, Mark Tinkler, Chris Westwood, Antony Sweeney, Matty Robson and many more.

Anyone interested should contact Andy on 07760886715 or Phil on 07896779471