Better Late than Never

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic

Pools 2 Salford City 0 (FA Cup Round 2 replay)

Tuesday December 15th 2015

This was a game that few Poolies feared, especially after the first game at Salford. Yes we were lucky with an early penalty but few would agree on the night's play that we deserved a draw. Tonight’s game was a bonus and also a freebie for the fans that purchased an away game ticket at Salford, which meant I was given a free ticket for tonight’s game, so the club should be commended for this gesture.

I was late to the Vic thanks to a daughter who never knows the meaning of time, especially when deciding which coat to wear. Arrived at the ground about ten minutes to kick off and as usual for cup games there was a queue back to Morrisons, with about two hundred people queuing at one turnstile.

Ducky was the unfortunate absentee, which was a shame as his form has been good of late, which could not be said about most of the squad. I think the manager called it “a lack of confidence” after the four nil thrashing last week. I was secretly hoping the some of the Salford players were absent, just maybe one or two could not get a shift off, I understand, after watching the replay on telly, that Ritchie Allan had missed the bus but still made it to the Vic, and was a dangerous sub late in the game.

The visitors have to be credited for their approach to the game, as they came at us from the off. They challenged for every ball and it seemed as if they won every one too, almost every fifty-fifty heading challenge was won by them and our defensive headers seemed to drop to a Salford player. Even the second ball was won by them as we struggled to put any real telling play together. Pools were having a nightmare of a game. Desperate defending and poor distribution just put even more pressure on us. So much so that the Ditchburn Poolie commented that we played better when the ball was out of play.

Sadly we are becoming used to watching games like this recently and it is not pretty. We need a lift from somewhere, but do we have any players that can give us that lift? Is it a problem with the coaching? Or are the players just not gelling or just not good enough? We can play some good football in short spells but we need to be better than that. It needs sorting soon or the great escape from last season could be on again in the New Year.

The tag of never winning on TV looked as it was going to be the case and I thought it was such a bad half that it was all over and only a matter of time before we cracked under the pressure, as the visitors were far and away the better side on the night. We were so poor, our approach work in their half was abysmal, as we either just lost the ball in a tackle or gave it away with poor passing.
"the Ditchburn Poolie commented that we played better when the ball was out of play."

At half time the Ditchburn, ever the optimist, convinced me that getting to nil all half way through a replay was progress. Last year we were done over by Blyth thanks to an engineered Shearer intervention. In truth that was horlicks as Blyth just came and did a job on us, It did not look or feel like progress as, apart from a couple of weak shots from Oates and Fenwick, there were eighty seven minutes on the clock before a cross-cum-shot from Carroll looked anything like a threat on the visitors' goal. I half expected the same result tonight as the Blyth game as we waded through the second half making no progress whatsoever.

Extra time was to be our saviour, maybe that was our ploy, let them wear themselves out charging around an unfamiliar pitch all night... we tire them into submission.

The visitors did look knackered in the first half of extra time and we began to make one or two passes between our players, and Fenwick wiped out the memory of that bloody awful miss in the first game. He laid a ball off for Oates and then made space for himself in the box and headed a crisp header into the goal that brought an audible huge communal sigh of relief around the Vic as we went one up.

You could see the heads of the Salford team visibly drop as the goal went in. They had nothing left. Pools, given a lifeline now, had a spring in their step and Walker picked up a ball in the visitors' half and at first was tempted to go for the corner flag. Whether he heard the boos of the home crowd or not, he turned in, towards goal, and made a delicate chip to Mandron, who just could not miss.

Two nil to the Hartlepool looks good on the record, especially as we could not buy a goal in recent games, but a win is a win no matter how ugly it was and we are into the next round. However it was interesting to watch the reaction of the Ditchburn, who is a long time served Poolie who wears his heart on his sleeve. He went on a lone walkabout to calm his nerves.

He did eventually come back and said he had not hit or berated anyone this time round.