Showing posts from February, 2016
Freebies and Jim-Jams

BILLY'S CONTRACT on this, that and the other

Who said that the price of football is prohibitive for the average working man? 

By chance,eighteen minutes before kick off to be precise, I found out that Pools' second string had a match against Rotherham at Bedford Terrace, Billingham, which is but a ten minute ride away.

Initially I thought that there was a big crowd in attendance as I was unable to gain access to the Billingham car park due to the amount of automobiles crammed in there. It turns out that the cars in question belonged to the players and officials.

I presented my season ticket at the turnstile, which gains the holder free admission, not to mention a gratis team sheet, and I took my place in the main stand, which was in fact the only stand, just as both teams came out. Pools fielded a strong side, eight of whom had first team experience, and collectively they had a fair few league miles on their clocks. Also in the side were three trialists.

I cannot say that I was familiar with any of the Rotherham players but none the less they had some class names in their line up: Fabian Bailey, Bradley Peace- McDonald, Darnelle Bailey- King and a Laurence Bilboe who to my mind with names like these they should have been playing polo and not football don't you know. Also in their ranks they had such Christian/First names as J'Cee, Brandon, Alaster and Trae. Interestingly, there was not one James, John, Tom, Peter, Paul Ian or Joe represented in squad on the day. Where have all the proper boys names gone? The closest we got was that of Billy (Paynter) and Dan (Jones/Smalley). I guess as a certain Mr Dylan once famously said 'The times they are a-changing'.

When you look back at the names of the footballers who played in the fifties they all had names that my football generation of the seventies were not familiar with either, such as Albert, Arthur, Cliff, Dougie Stan, Len, Jackie Ted, Hertbert and the like. I also seem to recollect that most of the players with names such as these always seemed to play for the middling Lancashire clubs ...or should that now read as Greater Manchester!

From the offset Pools dominated the game. Bingham, who had come on as a sub the previous night and scored at Accrington, was very lively as was Paynter, both of whom got first half goals. Paynter despite his long lay off looked fit and it is only a matter of time as to when he will be back on first team duty. Half time, two nil to Pools. Thankfully there was only a ten minute interval as it was bloody cold sat in that stand, plus the ski socks that I had purchased from Aldi the day before had failed miserably, as frost bite had set in after a mere twenty five minutes. (I think these socks were designed for skiing in Dubai).

Second half: a good save from the Millers keeper denied Connor Smith a hat trick. Why he is not involved with the first team is beyond me. Looks lively and has got pace. Adam Bartlett had only one real save to make during the half ...well, the whole game really, and was very vocal throughout. Two things stood out for me during the match: one was the way Pools played which was totally different from their League Two style. They say that in a club whether it be the first/second or youth team that they should all play to the same system so if someone from the reserves progresses to the first team they should slip into the system seamlessly. This did not appear to be the case against Rotherham.

The manner of play was light years away from what we normally witness from the first team. Surprisingly for most of the match the ball was kept on the grass and played to feet instead of being lumped up into the air. There was none of this head tennis from defenders that we see week in week out home and away. It was almost like 'watching football' I was also very surprised at how much space each team had. In some instances it was like, and don't laugh, watching Premiership football. Players carrying the ball and very tappy tappy with nothing like the amount of tackles going in that we see in Division Two.

Secondly, and again please don't laugh, it was well worth the entrance money alone, that I did not have to pay, just to watch Brad Walker's performance. Imperious is not too strong a word to describe his midfield display. Never lost the ball. Totally dominated the midfield, had plenty of time on the ball, superb range of passes, silky skills, made two goals and had one disallowed himself, not to mention making a few decent tackles. To be brutally honest he was a joy to watch. If a visiting manager was casting his eyes over him they would have put in an offer for him before he reached the shower. I think the reason why Walker does not perform as well in the first team is that whilst he can get away with it at reserve level, mainly because of the space that he was allowed, he hardly breaks into a trot let alone a canter at best. Think Ya Ya Toure and Alex Song of Man City and West Ham respectively, both players who are similar in style and are great passers but not the paciest, however they do have other players in their ranks who do their running on their behalf.

Unfortunately at Pools we have no pacy midfielders (ironically Brad Walker might be the quickest of them all) to do Walker's running for him, only passers. I was surprised when Wolves had him on trial recently, perhaps they see something in him that the average Pools fans/management don't. It was noticeable to all when Walker started to warm up in front of the Cyril Knowles against Exeter on Saturday that he was wearing orange boots. Pools want £50k for him. If the deal goes through it will be good business for all parties involved. Would keep the Wolves from the door if nothing else.

Of the trialists Julian Banton (centre half) and Jamie McDonagh (right winger) both of Sheff Utd stood out. Banton did not have much to do but McDonagh was lively and created chances. At the time of writing I have not heard any more of them. In summary, I'm looking forward to attending my next reserve match. Final score Pools 4 Rotherham 0

...and so, up the A19 

A goodly number of Football / Rugby clubs, excluding Pools, provide the armed forces with complimentary tickets for games throughout the season. My son, who is with the RAF, managed to secure tickets for the Sunderland - Bournemouth clash ...on the proviso that the RAF do not drop smart bombs on the Stadium of Light in the near future. No danger of that happening there as they look like imploding in on themselves in any event.

My son was apologetic that it was not a more attractive fixture that we were going to see. "On the contrary" I said "It will be a dog eat dog match with both sides going for a win". Besides, the best three teams that I have seen at the Vic in recent years, in no particular order, have been Bournemouth, Bournemouth and Bournemouth. They always try to play football the right way and what they have achieved both on and off the pitch is nothing short of a remarkable, for which they deserve every credit.

"he was a joy to watch. If a visiting manager was casting his eyes over him they would have put in an offer for him before he reached the shower"
Sunderland's next home game is against Man City which, if it is anything like last season's corresponding fixture, will be like a turkey shoot. I can envisage the Mackems having eleven men behind the ball as is Sam Allardyce's modus operandi. Once City's first goal goes in it will be all one way traffic and and it is not something I want to sit through as a neutral to watch a one sided match. Give me the Bournemouth fixture any day.

We parked up at the industrial estate a couple of miles or so from the ground and boarded the free park and ride service benevolently provided by the football club and within quarter of an hour we were picking our tickets up from a two foot square hole in the wall on the west side of the stadium. (A bit like the one Pools had in the 1980's - back end of the Mill House turnstiles near the Corner
Flag. Difference being that Pools' hole in the wall was a missing brick if memory serves me correctly. There is actually a picture of it at the Football Museum in the Lake District!)

Rather than pay the inflated prices within the stadium we picked up a couple of hot drinks from a burger van outside the ground which we supped on the exact spot (near the Bob Stokoe statue) that the miners' picket line was on during the infamous strike in 1984/5. Funny - all the years in the seventies/eighties that I have crossed the Wearmouth Bridge on my way to Roker Park, or a concert or bowling, I did not know of the existence of a colliery below. Perhaps it was due to the fact I used to walk on the east side of the bridge and look over at the shipyards. Sadly ships and coal are no more.

Despite the fact that we did not have crampons karabiners ice picks and ropes and other various climbing equipment we took our seats at the very top of the stand. Our seats were at the top of the very last row and I swear if I stood on my seat I could have touched the stand roof. We were just behind the goal near the corner flag but despite our lofty position we still had a good view. Prior to the kick-off we clubbed together and had a £1 bet on Defoe grabbing a hat trick. For all he contributed he might as well have gone home.and played tricks with his hat.

First five minutes were cagey with Bournemouth lobbing in a few long balls. Son reminds me that I told him Bournemouth were a footballing side. He had not got the words out of his mouth when Bournemouth turned on the style. One nil up in twelve minutes and kept Sunderland pinned in their own half for pretty much the full 45 minutes and playing some delightful football. How Sunderland got an equaliser on the stroke of half time still remains a mystery to me. It has to be said that even before Bournemouth scored the best part of 41,000 fans were on the home team's backs (and forwards as well as midfielders!). At least at 'Pools we have a bit more patience than the Mackems. It is little wonder their players confidence is shot.

Second half Sunderland upped their game a bit and did stray into the Bournemouth half on the odd occasion. In the last ten minutes John O'Shea pushed up, obviously on his own bat, to assist the forwards. Big Sam went apoplectic, we could hear him eighty yards away screaming at his centre half whilst whirling his arms around like an out of control windmill for him to get back into defence. Big Sam was happy with a point and saw the draw as a point gained rather than two lost.

Seven or eight minutes before the whistle went, we made our exit and made a dash for the park and ride, and were back home at 17.25 GMT. I can't afford Sky TV, either monetary-wise or principle-wise. However Son, who is a whizz with technology, rigged up my laptop and next thing you know we are watching live via the TV,courtesy of some American station,The Happy Hammers playing Man City. Another freebie. All in all total spent, excluding fuel, for these two games tallied up to £3.50 which covered our hot drinks and £1 bet. Who said Football is an expensive game for the fans to watch?

In summary,the Sunderland game was a funny one for me as I have a long-standing bet that big Sam will keep them up. On the other hand I would not like to see Bournemouth get relegated either, as, in a sense they are one of ours. A fourth division side made good. Based on their performance against Bourmemouth, unless Sunderland bring in some decent signings they are certainties for the drop. They are woeful. My hope is that if Borer get to the Premiership, Sunderland and Newcastle drop down to the Championship. On the flip side if Borer fail to achieve promotion I would like to see our North East neighbours avoid the drop. Call me mean spirited or what?

The Pyjama Bunch

I had to laugh out loud about the worldwide coverage and shame that woman from Darlington has heaped on her town by defending her right to bring her children to school whilst wearing her PJ'S. (just record the Jeremy Kyle show or watch it on catch up luv). This got me thinking. It is well documented about how at the end of each season 'Poolies don fancy dress outfits for their last away game of the season. Not only is it an eagerly awaited event not only by those who partake but by the rest of the country/world to see what this year's fancy dress theme will be. The publicity it brings to the town is second to none ...well perhaps second only to John Darwin.

Now that Darlington FC no longer exist the only joy these days when the fixture list first comes out is to see: 1) Are we at home on Boxing day 2) Are we at home at Easter 3) Where will our last away match be for the fancy dress outing.

This year number three was a major disappointment - it could not be any further away. Plymouth. As such I am guessing that there will only be a few dozen Poolies making the journey to the south west. As an alternative I think that Pools fans should take in Darlington 1066's last away game at Rushall Olympic and go in dressed up in our Jim Jams The only problem I can see with this is that the Darlow fans will probably be wearing pyjamas as a matter of course as their normal attire so some of the impact might get lost and we might get mixed up and be classed as Darloids.

Afterthought. I have just found out that Rushall Olympic are based in Walsall which is half way to Plymouth, so we might as well crack on to the south coast in our own nightwear.

On a more serious note, today I was shocked to see a woman in her sixties in Tesco Hartlepool wearing pyjamas at two o clock in the afternoon, not in the store itself but filling up with fuel on the forecourt. Normally I would have something sarcastic to say but I was actually left speechless.

I hope and pray she was on her way back home to Darlington.
Funny Old Game

Hypothermia + Crap = Total Misery

How things look to GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY

After a “dig it out” win against Wycombe and a very creditable draw against Cambridge there will have been some optimism amongst Poolies as we faced Exeter City. 

The gate was slightly up but the optimism diminished as the team line up was announced. A front two line up of Rhys Oates and Rakish Bingham was a guarantee of presenting the Exeter back four a safe passage. It turned out to be a miserable afternoon and gone are the days when cold weather put the fear of God into teams coming up here from the South.

What’s up with Scott Fenwick? And why was Nathan Thomas left on the bench until the second half? If he wasn’t able to manage 90 minutes maybe he should have been on at the start. As it was, by the time he came on we were already chasing the game. Thomas has the pace to create problems for opposing defences and overall is a good acquisition. Scott Fenwick won’t score a hatful of goals but he’s scored crucial ones when its mattered.
"A front two line up of Rhys Oates and Rakish Bingham was a guarantee of presenting the Exeter back four a safe passage"

The big news of course is the recruitment of Luke James and his arrival has divided Poolies on social networking. My view is that its worth the risk bringing him in – things are getting desperate now and we don’t want a repeat of last season. Already teams around us are starting to pick up points – notice Jack Compton’s hat trick for Yeovil last Saturday? He’s certainly going to be fired up when Yeovil come to Pools.

Coming back to the Wycombe game, I was interested in reading of Plymouth’s twitter account after The Pilgrims lost 1-0 last Saturday. “Wycombe came here to waste time, niggle and get under our skin. They did it and they won”. Couldn’t agree more. They’ve done it more than once at The Vic.

It could be argued, of course, that we’ve had injuries to contend with. The injuries to Billy Paynter and Carl Magnay have not helped – and then, of course, there was the suspensions of Magnay. Hopefully, getting these two back into the reckoning will help to improve things.

After all the trials and tribulations of watching Pools against Exeter City, I decided to partake in some television on the Sunday. Carlise certainly did their best against Everton and the racist chant certainly spoiled what should have been a joyous occasion.

On to the Chelsea v Milton Keynes Dons game and I couldn’t believe how many pundits the BBC had recruited for the game. There were three studio pundits, two touchline pundits and a pundit with the commentator. Add to that we had the public face of Walker’s Crisps grinning like a Cheshire Cat and displaying the fact that there may be a shortage of razor blades where he lives. The man’s a menace – he’s never off the bloody telly. Come off it BBC. How many pundits do you need? It was MK Dons that Chelsea were playing in a 4th Round FA Cup tie – not Barcelona in the Champions League Final. I see that the BBC are now asking over 75 year olds to give up their free TV licences. Should I reach that ripe old age, no way!!! 
Pools' New Finnish Link

BILL THE BIRO uses his language skills

The recent announcement of a tie-up between Pools and Finnish club Lahti appeared on Lahti's website, so those who can speak Finnish can verify what it says here:
But for the rest of us the Google Translate version will have to do:

FC Lahti Cooperation channel to England Figure Tomi Honkanen, Toni Korkeakunnaksen and Mika Halttunen presentation of the FA Cup 3rd Round match Hartlepool United, Derby County at halftime.

FC Lahti and English Hartlepool United have developed during the winter-oriented player, the exchange practice of cooperation. 

Tomi Honkanen, head coach Toni Korkeakunnaksen, President of Mika Halttunen delegation visited last weekend in Hartlepool agreed by the operational objectives. The cooperation aims at exploiting Finnish and English League periods of time diversity so that the lahtelaispelaajilla have the opportunity to practice and play during the winter months in England and Hartlepool respectively players in Lahti during the summer months. - FC Lahti build a network in cooperation with caution and in such a way that it corresponds to the needs of different areas of activity. 

Domestic network to build the future, Joonas Kolkka-operation the development of junior path, Fluminense cooperation is an important part of the representation of the team's competitiveness and now Hartlepool brings us the opportunity to switch to a suitable fitted the profile of players in sides opposed loans, a different competition from many years by utilizing, explains Managing Director Tomi Honkanen the development of the club's co-operation patterns.

So there you have it, in black and white - the lahtelaispelaajilla will be coming to Pools during the winter months, and presumably the Poolielaispelaajilla will be going the other way during the summer months. They'd probably prefer somewhere a bit more southern, though!

This item from a suggestion by Richie Barker's Diving Header

Far, Far Below Par

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic

Pools 0 Exeter City 2  (League 2) Saturday January 30th 2016

I see the official website called this game a "below par performance". I, like a lot of Pools fans today, could possibly find a better description for it. Apart from ten minutes in the first half and the last fifteen aided by the wind we were never in it. Too many players looking as if they did not want the ball, not many making what you might call a decent pass to their own players. Strikers on strike and some desperate defending brought on by a lack of cohesion in the side.

One fan asked me as he does every week “what is going on at this club?” I replied "you ask me every week and I just do not know". He thinks Ronnie Moore is too old school and the team is ten years behind our fellow teams in the division.

Once again the visitors won the toss and we kicked down bank the first half. It was a bright opening for Pools with Oates and Woods pressing the ball and turning defenders. For a brief spell we looked ok up to the edge of their box. Woods had a decent chance chasing a ball into the box but he was muscled out of it and in truth the lad does not look 100 per cent fit. That was possibly the only real chance of the half as it all fell apart from then on. The visitors, using the windy conditions to good effect, racing down the Millhouse side and whipping the ball in, Carson making a great save almost from their first attack.

Pools struggled to get any real threat going and we looked second best in a high percentage of challenges. We lost Oates, who is possibly one of our better grafters, after he was wiped out. Mr. Handley did not see anything wrong with the challenge. Thomas came on for Oates and I for one would have started with him after his last home performance.

Their first goal was a well-worked effort out of defence down the line to the by-line and a quick cross at a perfect height for the lad to nod it past Carson.
We expected better the second half if we could use the wind like they did but we sent more balls out of play than down the wings. We were back to the old school Pools - not able to hold the ball long enough to create anything and this puts pressure on the team.

Harrison was very lucky not to be red carded after his headlock brought down an attacker. Woods, who looked injured, and Featherstone made way for Magnay and Paynter, which lifted the crowd a little but did not improve the side. We were kept at long range and as you all know we do not have a proven goal scorer so it was an easy task for the visitors, who controlled the game.
"it was an easy task for the visitors, who controlled the game"

There was a shout for a handball by the opposition in a rare Pools attack but it was ignored. The ground was starting to empty half an hour from the end after such a poor show. There was a lot of noise made by the Pools fans after a shot from the visitors hit the bar and bounced down but it was definitely over the line from where I stood and as the Ditchburn Poolie was away blowing his nose there was no argument from him.

We really have to start putting something together or we are going to finish up like last season. As one fan said to me "twenty players in and no improvement to the side looks bad". The bottom teams are catching us and we know how hard it is to get off the bottom.

A new signing is supposedly coming from Scotland, an unpronounceable name, and the possibility of a return of Luke James to the Vic, but if so, will it be enough? A lot of fans are running out of patience judging by the cat calls today throughout the game, and the booing after the final whistle. Which set of fans ever applauds a defeat?

A point on the Luke James saga, I was told by a fan who claims he has his ear to the ground that we have not been paid the full fee for young Luke - but the ear to the ground could be that old Indian trick,and he was just listening for buffalo.
Satisfied with a Draw

Match report by ALAN ESSEX at the Abbey Stadium

Cambridge United 1 Pools 1  (League 2) Saturday January 23rd 2016

I arrived at the game – a very local one for me, it being about 15 miles from home – with very low expectations. 

The season so far has been a bit of a shambles with the players that came in at the beginning by and large failing miserably and / or being long term injured. Maybe I was hoping for too much when the season started but that’s a supporter’s prerogative isn’t it? Surely the fringes of the play off places was not too much of an ask? I know, last seasons Houdini-like escape act had gone to my head and I thought we’d continue to rise up the table.

Then on Tuesday I heard the game against Accrington and it really did seem that the manager had lost the plot regarding formations and the players, and at this point of the season seemed to be planning their next change of club. So you can see why I arrived as if I’d had a long session listening to Joy Division and contemplating the ceiling-mounted, rope-constructed washing line in the kitchen.

The line up had 3 changes from the Accrington game – I wouldn’t have been surprised if there had been 10. Bates Gray and Hawkins all came into the side. Bates apparently as Harrison had an injury – it was a wise replacement as Bates (amongst the whole team really) had a good game and does bring some organisation to the defence – Scott Harrison has had a few sound games but can, as is to be expected at our level, make costly errors. A bit off the wall but I wonder if (Scott) Harrison could play the lone striker's role, he’s got the physical attributes and would win at least a proportion of headers from long clearances.

Hawkins replaced the newly-acquired Nathan Thomas and Gray replaced Fenwick. The formation was a fluid 4-4-1-1 / 4-5-1 with Ellis Harrison playing the lone striker's role and supported by Gray. So, a team on the ‘fringes’ of the play off places playing a team on the ‘widows peak’ of relegation. There could only be one result surely but as we know it’s a funny old game.

Pools started brightly, a minor miracle in itself and after 4 minutes there was a melee in the Cambridge goalmouth with at least 4 attempts on the goal, Harrison hitting the post being one of them, however the ball was cleared. Pools continued to pressure and won 4 corners in quick succession. Oates was having a good game wide left and was well supported by Jake Carroll who I thought had a very good game. Bates and Jackson were both more than competent and Richards was sound when required although most of the Cambridge attacks came from their right hand side.

Harrison was playing the lone striker role well, holding the ball up and looking for attacking opportunities. However after half an hour he went off injured going for a 50:50 challenge. Both players were injured but Harrison couldn’t continue and was replaced by Rakish Bingham. Now Bingham was one of the players I had high hopes for this season and having scored at Accrington I thought he would be an able sub. Unfortunately he wasn’t a patch on Harrison. He didn’t win one header or get the ball from long clearances, he obviously prefers to play and receive the ball to feet - this was not going to happen with the way Pools were set up to play.

I was impressed with Carson, both his handling but equally his distribution, but whereas Harrison won his fair share, Bingham won none. Still, I find it difficult to criticise Bingham, it wasn’t his type of game and he at least had one or two defenders with him leaving room for others to profit. Now I am not one of those people who wholly condemn the long ball game – a mixture of both short passing and long balls is entertaining for me and Pools were playing that way today – it does rely on a strong striker and it can be a thankless task – Harrison played this role well before his injury and if it is long term I hope Billy Paynter can return or we get a replacement.

At half time both sets of supporters seemed happy and applauded their respective teams off. The game continued in a similar vein during the second half with both teams breaking but few serious efforts on goal. Gray came into the game more as an attacking force and had one shot on target well saved. As the half progressed Cambridge brought on their substitutes – Barry Corr was one of them and I must admit to a feeling of dread as he usually tortured us when playing for Southend. Fortunately Jackson and Bates handled him ably.

Cambridge’s final sub was Ryan Donaldson in the 70th minute. 20 seconds after he came on Pools had scored, something you could never say when he played briefly for us! Woods played through Gray from the centre of the penalty area and Gray slotted home skilfully. tried hard to counter the expected Cambridge onslaught and almost made it. Bingham was man-handled on the Pools right on the half way line – he should clearly have had a free kick but the game progressed – I’m not using this as an excuse as there was half of the pitch for Pools to get their defensive shape, but Cambridge carried on and from Leon Legge’s pass Williamson scored from inside the penalty box on the 90th minute.
"20 seconds after he came on Pools had scored, something you could never say when he played briefly for us!"

Four minutes of extra time saw both teams trying to find a winner but being satisfied with the draw. It was a great game, well officiated and played in a competitive but fair spirit. It’s a big if, but if Pools can carry this form on in a consistent manner they will be on the up. I really believe that Pools should forget about playing pretty one touch triangles and play to their strengths and in this I am thinking long passes, holding the ball up and bringing others into forward positions with a strong central defence. However I don’t advocate long aimless high balls to some imaginary Stevie Howard in his prime (i.e. when he played for Luton Town).

Where this leaves our new permanent signing Thomas I’m not sure, probably competing with Hawkins for a place in the team. Impossible to pick out a man of the match  –  they all played their part well and I said earlier even Bingham who didn’t get much of a look in at least had a marker or two looking after him, releasing others.

For me Leon Legge was the pick of the opposition, solid at the back with very good distribution, however Will Norris the goalkeeper won their official Man of the Match.

Just a final note. When the team were warming up there seemed to be an abundance of coaches on the field: Tony Caig, the goalkeeping coach, Sam Collins overseeing proceedings, Craig Hubbard taking the session and another coach Ian Gallagher or John Hewitson possibly, with Mr. Moore watching from the touchline. Additionally Billy Paynter was helping out with the session. Before the game I thought this was overkill but if it helped with the performance than it must have been worthwhile.

And a final final note. Walking into the ground I reminisced upon the sad demise of the printed Fanzine – yes I know I’m just showing my age and that fans now have an online presence, just like Monkey Business, but it’s not the same for me. I know that some official programmes attempt to fill the gap with humorous banter but they will never succeed as they are just a corporate mouthpiece. So, gone the same way as the flat cap, wooden rattle, brass band and Judas Priest songs over the PA at half time – and they call that progress!
From a suggestion by Richie Barker's Diving Header
A Good Win

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic

Pools 1 Wycombe 0  (League 2) Saturday January 16th 2016

After a good display last week in the cup, most fans today were just hoping for another decent performance to justify a possible turning of a corner in Pools luck and performances.

The new boy Nathan Thomas was the main topic of conversation. The lad is twenty one and has had five clubs already, The way I look at it is: are we in any position not to take a chance on a young lad who was obviously homesick and wanted to be closer to home? Although Michael Nelson used to say the same when he signed for Pools. He went back south, then up north, so players can be as fickle as fans.

With Mr. Moore telling the wireless that clubs were asking for ridiculous money for players he bid for, he was not going to fall into their trap, so did not follow up the bid once rejected. Good on him.

It was probably the coldest day we have had up here in the frozen north but for us hardy Poolies it was ok, at least the sun was shining. With Thomas the only change from the cup game it was Hawkins who missed out and he had been excellent in the last game.

Woods was the first player to get a shot off after a decent ball in from Gray. A foul on Gray seemed to set the tone for the visitors. They had two strong centre halves who definitely took no prisoners. The tactics from this pair would have been more at home in a WWF - the wrestling fraternity not the wildlife one - than on a football field.

Pools defended well and caused bother for Wycombe all afternoon but if I have one criticism from today, it is, why do we insist on lifting balls up to a strong defensive team instead of playing football, as we look so much better when we keep it on the deck.

Kicking down the bank the first half always gets my goat. Home teams should get their choice. Thomas made some very clever strong runs down the flank and some great crosses; some a tad too strong but this lad can run and cross a ball and it comes easy to him. Both Jackson and Harrison were steady and had to be on their game as the visitors were quick on the break.

Pools went ahead, deservedly so, after Oates won a ball and raced in from the Millhouse side and cleverly evaded at least four tackles before laying the ball off to Thomas wide on the opposite wing, who had the space to go for the line and whip a cross into the box, where Fenwick lashed the ball home. He deserved that goal as he had taken the brunt of all that Wycombe dished out to our players, but we know he thrives on confrontation.
" it adds to the confidence of the team to be able to withstand such an onslaught late in a game and come out on top"

One incident saw Thomas, who was standing in front of their keeper waiting for a corner, a centre half and their keeper all ending up on the deck in the back of the net before the kick was taken, and of course Mr. Brown the official spoke only to Thomas, as they went in for the break. Once again all this aggro from the visitors went unchecked by a weak referee. Sure enough in the second half it was a Pools player who was booked, which is annoying when you'd seen what had gone on in the first half. It was a good first half performance again and Pools had their tails up.

The second half, kicking the wrong way, it was Pools who were under fire. Richards headed one off the line but again the ball was coming straight back. Oates who had a great game looked to be the more likely to increase the lead as he found a lot of room out wide with Thomas and Gray being the foil, and Fenwick taking them on up front.

Wycombe really piled on the pressure looking for an equalizer and Carson was at his best and tipped a very dangerous shot over the bar. Under pressure Pools relied on Carson, Jackson and Harrison who were excellent but it called for a great team effort to hold the line as, especially in the last twenty minutes, Pools were under the cosh and looked a bit shaky as Wycombe came at us led by the veteran sub striker Hayes.

Fenwick is becoming a key player and is back to his best pushing the team forward not square as he had been recently, probably because in Gray and Oates he has got an outlet. Woods was superb today and was unlucky not to get on the score sheet.

Thomas went off half way through the second half after jumping for a ball with a defender who looked to have landed on his foot.

Overall a great team performance despite the pressure late in the game but it adds to the confidence of the team to be able to withstand such an onslaught late in a game and come out on top.

Mr. Brown - what can I say? A shocking performance today which does nothing for the game or your profession when you can be so biased towards one team just because they are at home. I don’t think there is anything in the rule book that says you must allow visitors a free run to trample and wrestle the home team in the way you did today. Thank you for the free kick late in the game when Carson got a boot in the head going down for a ball, ok he did have the ball in his grasp at the time so maybe you got that “ONE” right. I can understand the Town End barracking you after some of your decisions but my guess is under all the cacophony of noise you may have thought you were among friends and your best response was to laugh in their faces, Wake up and smell the coffee man,you were supposed to be doing a job without any bias to either side and you failed.
A Great Display of Football

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic

Pools 1 Derby County 2  (FA Cup R3) Saturday January 9th 2016

Pools up for the cup once again and it has been a long wait for football, never mind a cup game. Derby County had made ten changes for this game. There are two ways of looking at that, either they are shot scared of Pools' unbeaten Christmas run or they are just trying a new system in a different division, but lying second in their own league I think it must be the first option.

The crowd of just a tad less than five thousand on a decent winter day were all looking to a good game, possibly not expecting to win but not to show our selves up. Kevin Dixon was introduced to the crowd before the game as he was up for a bit of a fans do in the town tonight. Also the new link with Finland was announced with a photo opportunity for our new friends on the pitch before the game. Sounds like a few of the Hartlepool lads could be spending their summer jollies playing footy in Finlandia.

Pools made a bright start to this game, and from the first corner Woods went close with a shot. Oates then made a great run into the box and was brought down but sadly, again we had an official who can only officiate one team at a time and it was not the blues' turn today. A blatant drag to the ground of Gray and then Fenwick flattened in the box - just waved on. I know I say this every week but it is true of some of the officials we get at the Vic.

Oates was lively and erratic at times but again he made a great run and was flattened, but nothing was given Pools' way. Pools were doing very well against the Championship side and on twenty minutes they had never really threatened our goal. It looked to me as if they were a little too casual and taking us for granted, as Pools were in their faces all the time.

I, along with the Ditchburn Poolie, was impressed with our attacking style and application, we looked a more balanced side and everyone was involved, which was good to see. The visitors went close just on the break but Carson made two crucial saves, and Carroll headed a strong shot over the bar as the visitors stepped up their game with the half coming to an end. We had played well and actually looked the more likely side in the first half.

Derby, sporting their new winger, who was a bit of a show boater, was taking all the corners and one he took at the Town End from the Mill House side almost trickled into the side netting. It was only later, I was informed, that our mascot had a hand in this: as the player moved to take his kick, a huge monkey hand slapped the hoarding behind him and he almost shot himself, and then to cover his embarrassment was inspecting the turf after messing the kick up. I must say there must be a lot of spare money in football if they can pay two and a half million pounds for this player.
"We shocked them and surprised a lot of our own fans with a great display of football"

Pools started the second half in the same manner, and Gray was very unlucky on a great run from the halfway line left defenders in his wake but the ball bobbled off a defender's heel in the box as he was about to shoot. The two million dollar man had one speculative shot that rattled the Pools cross bar and was cleared.

Pools kicking down bank the second half were still looking good and a great run by Woods ended with a ball crossed to the middle of the box where Fenwick was waiting to pounce when Gray latched onto the ball and volleyed it into the net. Just what Pools deserved for the show they were putting on.

Maybe the shock of going behind was dawning on the visitors and they stepped up their game in the second half with Carson blocking and diving at anything sent his way. Sadly he could do nothing about the equalizer as, for the first time in the game, we stood off them and the sub Butterfield took advantage. Moving along the line he was unchallenged and hit a good shot past Carson to make it one all.

Carson was in action again as Derby looked more confident. Darren Bent squirmed his way into the box and hit his shot straight at Carson. It was Bent who eventually got the winner as he hit a shot across the goal and into the net when the game was nearly done.

Considering the opposition and our form of late I think this was the expected result. As I said earlier we did not want to be hammered and that could have been the thinking of the visitors prior to the game. We shocked them and surprised a lot of our own fans with a great display of football. Fenwick was captain for the day and Harrison took over late in the game. Featherstone for my money was the man of the match but the accolade was given to Hawkins who did, along with all of the team, have a good day at the office despite the result.

Two issues I have with the game. As always, the official who gave Pools nothing all game but allowed the visitors to foul continuously and with Mr. Moore who again took off Gray, who was our most potent player in attack and brought on Walker who was just lazy in losing the ball just outside their box which led to the second goal. Let the lad go if he is not putting in the work.

Carson was superb throughout the game and he could have been contender for man of the match. The Ditchburn has this theory that the keeper is so sharp on his line that he must be ambidextrous in both feet.

One other point was that their keeper Mitchell is a Poolie, so I hope he got a bit of stick from the Town End.
Any Other Business


If December was a month of extreme weather, leaving us without much football to comment on, January was a month of extreme football - extremely good and extremely bad. It's getting to be a bit bizarre that Pools can play well against Derby, be woeful at Accrington, play well against Wycombe and Cambridge, then go back to woeful again for Exeter's visit. Hopefully the new signings will improve things, but that sort of inconsistency suggests the problems are in motivation rather than skill.

With Pools now finding themselves in the final place above the drop zone, it could be another hairy finish to the season. And if Ronnie Moore expects praise, should he pull off another great escape, we suspect that Poolies will be happy to point out who got the team into that position anyway.

Having mentioned both the drop and Accrington above, here's something appropriate from 54 years ago. Accrington Stanley, one of the founder members of the Football League in 1888, had financial problems in 1962 (how they don't now is a miracle on the gates they get!) and resigned from the league. Thus Oxford were able to take their place without the need for a league club to drop out. The League clubs tended to look after their own hence Pools' record number of re-elections. Ironically, when the re-formed Accrington Stanley came up from the Conference, they took the place of Oxford in League Two.

Those of us who were around that long ago may not have noticed a slight inaccuracy in the previous paragraph. In 1962 the press covered the demise of Accrington Stanley with great emphasis on their having been one of the twelve founder members of the Football League, conveniently forgetting one important point. Which was that founder members Accrington actually resigned from the league after only five years. Another Accrington club, Stanley Villa, was renamed to include the town's name, and 28 years later the same Accrington Stanley went up with Pools into the new Division 3 North.

Going off at a tangent, there is a Lancashire folk music singer/comic-and-serious songwriter who goes by the wonderful stage name of Stanley Accrington. He's made no less than twenty albums since 1981, all with football-related titles like Into Administration, Through the Turnstile, Ground: Zero (get it?) and Offside Trap. He's at Whitby Folk Week every summer, and here's his website if you're interested: