Showing posts from April, 2016

Bandwagon Keeps on Rolling

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic

Pools 2 Mansfield 1 (League 2) Saturday April 2nd 2016


I am not sure what it is about Mansfield fans, they always seem to want to bring chaos when they visit the Vic and I am told even a visit to Field Mill is not a pleasant experience for visiting Pools fans.

Today I witnessed a group of their fans walking towards the Vic across the Asda bridge when the lights were on green, which means to normal pedestrians that you wait till the lights change. Some of this bunch, not all, but the Neanderthals amongst them decided they would not be stopped so walked through the traffic abusing drivers who were entitled to drive on through them. A young lady was stopped in the middle of the junction and verbally abused by some of these middle aged wannabe citizens of Mansfield. It is a sad day for football when these ignorant Neanderthals who possibly have been drinking all day are allowed to roam the town like young vandals then allowed into a football ground in that condition.

At the Vic there were a couple of announcements, The Jeff Stelling walk made a lot of money, but what I thought was odd was that because of that all us Town End fans next season will become the Prostate End fans as the stand will be renamed in honour of the walkers. Prostate End? - I think I will go back to the Mill House Side.

One rumour of the day supersedes the Colin Cooper rumour of last week, that Gary Palliser is now tipped to be the number two. If we hold on for a week we might lower the stakes to Gary Neville, God forbid.

Another announcement was the five hundredth game for Billy Paynter. I have to admit I was not always a fan of Billy Paynter when he first came to the club; he seemed lethargic and was looking to be another Howard, but since his return from injury I have to hold up my hands and say "Well done, sir". He is the master of his craft, always calm on the ball, shields and distributes it superbly, which in turn is a tribute to the manager playing two good wide players up there with him, bringing the best out of all three of them.

Mr. Salisbury shows who's boss
One good job today was winning the toss and taking on the slope in the first half. The bad omen of the day came once again from the Ditchburn Poolie who gave us the SP on the man in the middle, Mr Salisbury. He never smiles, ever. I must say he is never a popular chap at the Vic and his last visit was a defeat from Plymouth.

The game got off to a brisk start, with both teams missing early chances. A nice link up between James and Magnay set up Paynter but his header was wide. Despite his lack of goals to date young Luke never gives up the cause despite taking a lot of battering. There was one lovely piece of skill when a long high ball found him near the Cyril Knowles Stand. He took that ball down and in the same movement pushed it forward and raced down the wing at the opposition, He was blocked but the skill he showed was fantastic. The question was asked, "Should we sign him?", and the answer is YES.

For the first twenty minutes it looked as if the opposition were getting the better of Pools with some good attacking and some clever midfield play was breaking us down. Thomas, playing against his old team, was prepared to take them all on - he was on fire. He was getting grief from their fans but let his crosses do the talking, and he again almost set up Payner with a great cross but the header again was blocked by the keeper.

Featherstone set off on a run from his own half and after beating all the defenders in front of him found himself in the box; The Ditchburn commented that he must have had a nosebleed, being so high up the pitch. He was just about to shoot when he was taken from behind. And that nice Mr. Salisbury, who was having trouble keeping up, pointed to the spot. The last man had to go so it was advantage to Pools.
"Prostate End? - I think I will go back to the Mill House Side"

Paynter managed to squeeze the ball under the keeper. so one nil to the Hartlepool. Mr Salisbury was surrounded by irate Mansfield players. Green in particular seemed to be conversing with Mr Salisbury throughout the game and was instrumental in getting Thomas booked after he taunted the away fans after the goal went in. He had gone down to the Rink End to take a corner and a group of Mansfield fans marched down to the flag to give him grief, even spitting at him. I am sure that I saw the gendarmes escort one of the Neanderthals from earlier out of the Vic.

On the pitch there was a bit of a scuffle till Mr Salisbury returned the hand bags and issued a couple of yellow cards but the discipline of the Mansfield players went out of the window as it became a rough house game towards the break.

Bates blocked a shot on the line and Carson made a great save as we got to half time. Being one man down should have put the visitors on the back foot, but far from it as they pegged us back. Thomas was still taking stick and one tackle down the Cyril Knowles side nearly put him over the barrier. As he had been booked already, Paynter had a quiet word with him.

Pools were dropping deep and were under pressure for most of the second half, and it was inevitable Mansfield would score, and they did. Their fans started to chant "Thomas, Thomas, what’s the score?" I have no idea what the lad did down there but they were really over the top in their hatred of a former player, but what do you expect from Neanderthals?

The Nathan Thomas Fan Club offer 
their encouragement
Hignett took Thomas off for his own good and Woods came on and instantly picked up a ball and pushed forward. His touch was a bit heavy but as a defender tried to shield the ball out for a goal kick Woods raced down towards the line, slid in to retrieve the ball on the line and lay it back to Magnay, who raced, 'possibly', into the box, where he was chopped down and that much maligned Mr Salisbury once again pointed to the spot. When was the last time Pools were given two penalties in one game? Mr Salisbury you are welcome to the Vic any time, and take no notice of that slanderous Ditchburn.

A huge defender tried to put Billy off as he was about to take the kick, but Billy is too cool to rise to that and even taunted the player before he slotted the ball home, making it a two-one win for Pools.  Paynter was given the Man of the Match award but mine would have gone to Carson.

It has to be said that Pools were playing against ten men for a long time and should have made the most of it, but Mansfield defended well in the first half and were better than Pools in the second half. The Hignett bandwagon keeps on rolling.

The Great Escape - Now a Distant Memory


Well, who would have believed it? After the Easter Monday game against Leyton Orient it was six games undefeated – four wins, two draws and four clean sheets. After the 3-1 defeat at Bristol Rovers, Craig Hignett must have wondered what he’d let himself in for. Yet, it's all come together in all sorts of ways.

Jake Carroll is a different player. I would have made him Man of the Match against Dagenham and Redbridge – not for the goal he scored but for the one he saved on the line. It was a brilliant piece of anticipation – and contributed to a Pools victory. A goal for the opposition at that time would have led us to groan ‘Oh, here we go again!’. His change round has been put down to seeing a sports psychologist but I would reckon the new regime at Pools was an additional factor.

As has been said, same players, different team. Man management is important in footy. I always remember Cloughie once being asked what was the most difficult part of being a manager. He replied it was the way you treated players who were under performing. Some, he said, needed a kick up the backside; others needed a kiss and a cuddle.

And, of course, Nathan Thomas can now score goals! He’s going to be a damned good signing for Pools - so instead of making them, he can now score them. He (and Luke James and Jake Gray for that matter) was rather subdued against AFC Wimbledon but that was no reflection on any of them. Rather, it was the way that Wimbledon approached the game. OK, they wanted to keep cuddling Billy Paynter for most of the game but their tight marking made it difficult for Pools to create worthwhile chances. I’ve no complaint about that – they played the game fairly and didn’t resort to persistent fouling unlike, for example, Wycombe. A good reflection on the way the game was played was the fact that no yellow cards were produced.
"it's all come together in all sorts of ways"

The fact that we’ve had four clean sheets in our little run of unbeaten games is an indication of how we’ve tightened up. Jake Carroll I’ve already mentioned but Matthew Bates has now silenced all the doubters and, of course, there’s Adam ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. ‘Stonewall’ would be a good permanent signing for us but I suspect that if Middlesbrough release him at the end of the season he could go to a League One club.

Late goals now seem to be a thing of the past – we have the ability to hold out. Jake Gray will, I’m sure, go on to develop his career at Crystal Palace – if not, he may be ripe for a Championship club.

Now that we’re almost safe, discussion is focussing on who we can give chances to in the last few matches but our scope may be limited. As I understand it, the Football League lay down that clubs have got to field their strongest sides and this could prove a problem as some of our remaining games are against clubs in the automatic promotion spots/play off places/ on the fringe of the play off places – Accrington, Oxford, Plymouth, Portsmouth and, of course Carlisle. Still, those games shouldn’t worry us – we more than held our own against Northampton and deserved a draw against Plymouth. I suppose we could play Josh Laurent in one game – let’s have a look at him!

Well, soon be Euro 2016. As Poolies, our main interest will be whether Trevor Carson gets into the Northern Ireland squad – let’s hope he does! As usual, the FA are up to their old tricks, namely flogging replica kits at sky high prices. Its £101 for a full adult replica kit and £84 for a junior kit. What sort of ivory tower do these people live in?

Funny Old Game

Cartoons: York, Mags & Mackems

Living in the Past

(Very) late match report just in 

by BILLY'S CONTRACT at Feethams

Darlington 1 Pools 4    Durham Senior Cup Final, 1985

Going from memory I think I found out about this match being played by pure chance. There was not much mention of it beforehand probably because it was pre season and as such there was not much publicity about it. I could not tell you who Pools beat in the previous rounds let alone the semis to reach this prestigious final. 

At the time I used to live in Eaglescliffe, a mere 15 minute drive to Darlington. Had I known beforehand about this match taking place I would have sedately made my way to Allens West railway station just around the corner from where I lived accompanied by my Darlington supporting friend, work mate and near-neighbour, and boarded the train for Quakerville.

In those days the train would have been a Class 101 Diesel multiple unit (DMU) run by British Rail. Little did any of us innocents suspect that Northern Rail and Pacer trains would be soon coming down the line or should I say screeching and plodding down the line a few months later, and are still with us thirty years on. I recall dashing to the car, which I am guessing in 1985 could have been either my trusty Triumph Acclaim or my rusty Austin Maxi. When I think about it, it had got to have been the Toledo as I remember getting home later that same day without the assistance of the breakdown services.

Thinking back, the first three cars that I owned, Triumph Toledo, Austin Maxi and Triumph Acclaim, all broke down at one stage or another, some of them on numerous occasions. Tell me whatever did happened to British Leyland?

So it was a mad dash (yes, it definitely was the Acclaim and not the Maxi now that I come to think of it, Maxis did not dash in either looks or performance), down the A67 trying to avoid the traffic going to Teesside airport. Yes, dear reader, I can't believe it either: that there was once an airport in Teesside/Cleveland/Tees Valley. Historical fact: after the war Hartlepool was given the opportunity to have an international airport in the town based at the then Greatham airfield, but the council opted instead for a steelworks.

I parked up in Darlo without too much difficulty (In that case it was undoubtedly the Acclaim and not the Maxi) on the hill near the railway station. I got to the ground a few minutes after kick off and gained entrance through a gate and not the turnstile at the cricket end of the ground. Paid my money to the 'gate operator' who gave me a cloakroom raffle ticket in exchange.

Looking at the advertising hoardings, Magnet and Southerns is now Magnet, Vaux is gone, James Graham Timber is gone, Feethams is gone and nobody has a clue where Darlo FC are. In the past before fan segregation, we always used the cricket ground turnstile and not the Polam Lane entance into Feethams as, funnily, it was a matter of course/tradition that Poolies used to congregate in the Tin Shed, the Darlington popular end, unless of course Pools were playing there and it then became the Hartlepool popular end.
"I hadn't even got the wrapper off my Marathon bar when Alan Shoulder neatly rounded the Darlo keeper leaving him on the edge of the penalty box and slotted home from about a foot."

The first time I went to Feethams was 1970/71 season and I asked my new-found college mates who were going to the game where we would meet up. "See you in the Tin Shed" was their nonchalant reply, and it was not like they were trouble makers/boot boys/skins or the like and as such over the years it was our meeting up point in the ground. We all had our favourite viewing spots on the terrace in the Tin Shed. Mine to be honest was very near to the exit.

As it was such a hot day, I gave the Shed a miss and decided to enjoy the sunshine and took my place on the terracing beside the East Stand (Older readers may recall this is the one the that housed the dressing rooms).

I hadn't even got the wrapper off my Marathon bar when Alan Shoulder neatly rounded the Darlo keeper leaving him on the edge of the penalty box and slotted home from about a foot. "Two nil down in 7 minutes" this Darlo fan who was stood behind me yelled. I said "Two? I only thought it was one nil". He confirmed that Pools had got their first after three minutes. He must have thought that I too was a Darlo supporter by the look on my face. But my disappointment was at having missed a Pools goal and not for being a Darloid.

In truth I am unable to recall much of the match, well it was thirty-one years ago after all, but even when Pools went three goals up I still felt that they would blow it. Having a 4-1 lead with a few minutes to go did not fill me with confidence and I still thought that we might, just might get a draw out of the game ...with a bit of luck!

I know Alan Shoulder and Kevin Dixon both scored. Dicker might have got two but despite trawling the internet, and searching my memory banks I am unable to name the other scorer(s). There was a crowd of around five or six hundred at best. Looking back there did not seem to be very many Poolies in attendance but again this was in an age before replica strips were the norm and at that time I would be, as now, wearing a Jethro Tull T shirt (Under Wraps tour 1985).
Kevin Dixon is thwarted by the Darlington keeper,
I'll never forget old what's his name.
Interestingly, both teams played in their away shirts. Darlo in a smart green affair which would not be out of place for any of today's non league teams. Pools played in a red shirt with black trim with Hansa emblazoned across the the front of the shirt in German Gothic (?) lettering. For the benefit of younger readers, Hansa was a lager brewed under licence by Cameron's at a time when German-named lagers were all the rage. Hansa was brought in to replace Cameron's putrid Ice Gold and to compete with Vaux's Norseman lager - all of which tasted like rabid cat's pee of various differing degrees. Hansa was strongly advertised in the local press and regional TV. The tag line went something like 'You ave ze thirst and vee ave ze Hansa. Brewed in Dortmund since 1767' (or something). To get the real effect that should be read in a very bad German accent something akin to Dick Van Dyke playing the part of a German guard in a prisoner of war camp film. The only time I came across Hansa lager Bier in Germany was when we were in some obscure part of East Berlin before the wall came down and I spotted someone drinking it. My friend who had been living in Germany for a good many years informed me that only the down and outs would be seen quaffing it. Much to his dismay I insisted on buying a tin of it just for the craic. It was absolutely awful - obviously it had been brewed in Hartlepool!

After the match Pools were presented with the Durham Senior Cup trophy and all the players received tankards. Needless to say that Bob Newton's may well have been full of Hansa lager bier that same evening ...or perhaps that same afternoon.

Can you name the players? Back row: Bob Newton, Brian Honour, Alan Little, John Gollogly, Alan Stevenson, Tom Kelly, David Linighan, Billy Horner drives a Datsun, Front row: John Bird, Nigel Walker, Tony Smith, Keith Nobbs and Alan Shoulder
The victors making their way to the open top coach. Eddie Blackburn in jacket, looks as if he has just come from a party or is on his way to one. Note Advert on the roof of the stand for the Evening Despatch which closed the following year.
Dear Vicki

Monkey Business agony aunt VICKI PARK returns with help for troubled souls

Dear Vicki,
I am aiming to be a candidate in this year's United States presidential election and being a controversial character I was wondering if you have any advice for me in my quest.

DT, Washington
Dear DT,
Unfamiliar as I am with public life on your side of the Atlantic, I do however know that we have experience of controversial characters over here too. One you may not be familiar with was a very rich man with comb-over hair, who took over a UK soccer club, or as Sky TV would say 'soccer club' , and ran it, and his millions, into the ground, ending up in prison.

The lesson I would pass on from his story is: don't promise anything in five years, don't waste money building things that may not be much use, and get a sensible haircut. And don't, ever, get involved with soccer. Or heskylators.

Dear Vicki,
Until recently I managed a North-East Premier League club. I have managed several other English clubs as well as the national side, but always ended up winning nothing and being sacked. Yet I have also been successful in managing on the continent. Can you expain this, and tell me what I can do about it if I want to continue in management in England.
SMcC, Newcastle
Dear SMcC,
I think you have already given the answer. You are successful abroad. You are a failure in the UK. Accept that and do what you do best, managing on the continent. 

If you still want to continue trying again in England, good luck to you, but remember that having been sacked a few times already, mediocre performance may not be tolerated for quite so long in the future. So if you insist on continuing to go out into the storm that is English football management, be prepared to get frequent soakings, or take a big umbrella.

Dear Vicki,
Having until recently played football in the Premier League for Sunderland, I have now been given the opportunity to play for a prison team. Do you think I ought to accept or decline.
AJ, Wakefield
Dear AJ,

For you, playing prison football would have its pros and cons (especially cons). On the one hand the exercise and change of routine would be good, but being a player who is (presumably) so much better than his team-mates might cause resentment, especially in the player who has to give up his place, and prison might not be a good place to upset people. 

But one other consideration is that these days it's almost impossible for ex-con footballers to resume their careers at the same level, if at all, due to public pressure. So perhaps you should go for it, as it may be the only chance you get, and at least it won't be as embarrassing as playing for Sunderland.

Dear Vicki,
I am a European football manager who wrote to you last month about my aspiration, which had become public, to become manager of a rich North-West premiership club. My intention to buy a star Tottenham player should that happen has now also become public.

Do you think this latest revelation will have jeopardised my chances?

JM, Chelsea
Dear JM,
Your chances are probably no worse than they were last month. In for a cent, in for a Euro, as they say.

Dear Vicki,
Do you remember I wrote to you last month about my unfair treatment by FIFA? Well, as yet nobody has apologised or rescinded my suspension. How long do you think it could take, as I'm not as young as I was.
SB, Zurich
Dear SB,
I wouldn't hold your breath. That can be fatal.

Dear Vicki,
I recently had my proudest moment as manager of a national football team, when we beat the world champions in their capital city. A few days later we lost at home to a team ranked below us in the FIFA rankings. I know they were only friendlies, but do you think I should be worried?
RH, London
Dear RH,
Everyone managing a team at any level should be worried by defeats as, even if they are friendlies, there will be disappointed fans who may hold them against the manager. 

With high-profile international managers there is always the press, waiting to exaggerate or even create a rift between the manager and the players, and ultimately the fans. And that can lead to the biggest worry of all: having to accept a not-quite-so-many-million-pound settlement if you are sacked from your multi-million pound job.

So look after the defeats and the millions will look after themselves.

The Boy Done Well

Childcare - the BILLY'S CONTRACT way

I recently came across a few photos of Contract junior when he was but a wee bairn and they brought back a lot of many happy memories, particularly in those days when as far as he was concerned I was Batman, Superman and Mr. Blobby all rolled into one. In his eyes there was nobody like Dad. 

Twenty-odd years later he still says the same thing, although it is tinged with a tad of sarcasm and a wry smile, as I recently made a hasty retreat in an Indian restaurant from a ladies' toilet which I inadvertently entered with curry stains down the front of my shirt.

When 'The Boy' first appeared on the scene nearly twenty-four years ago, overnight I had to put my responsible head on as I was now a father. Thoughts at once turned to the future: vaccinations, child care, work/life/home balance, which schools would he attend, exams, a good job. Would he be a good kid, what will his friends be like and which football team would he support? That was when the alarm bells started to ring very loudly. I had many a sleepless night wondering not about what sort of education he would get but which football team he would end up supporting.

 At the time I lived in darkest Teesside and not that far from Darlington either. I can recall vividly waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night from a nightmare so realistic that Stephen King would have difficulty in describing it. In this fearsome dream The Boy is staggering towards me, zombie-like, eyes wide open with his arms outstretched and mumbling something incoherent. It looks as if his shirt is bloodstained but the mumbling becomes a chant and I can make out the words "C'mon Boro, C'mon Boro", and what I thought was blood is the red of a Borer shirt. It is then that I wake up Screammmmming. with Hitchcock's Pyscho music playing in the background for effect.

Was this dream a warning or some sort of premonition? I had to think this one out. The statistics state that a son will tend to support the same team his father does. However another train of thought argues that it is the son's natural duty to rebel against the father's values and standards and, for him to keep in with, and be accepted as part of his group of friends, he must 'follow the pack', due to peer pressure. What to do? The signs were not encouraging.

Our next door neighbour was a Boro season ticket holder, as indeed was his neighbour, and both of them had their offspring wearing Borer tops from an early age. I had to think fast. Ring Ester Rantzen at Child Line to report my neighbours for child cruelty? No, I had a better idea.

I travelled to the Ancient Borough and sought out the guidance of the Elders. (I had to make do with the second-in-command as Poolpower, the chief elder, was getting his fill of fish fritters from Verrills at the time). The wise man told me to have The Boy decked out in Pools colours as soon as possible, which must then be worn on all occasions. In a secret ceremony conducted next to the Elephant Rock* (We had to wait until the tide went out), I was presented with the sacred Dut. I recall it was Navy blue on the bottom half and sky blue on the top with the symbol of a Hart jumping and in the background a large letter 'H'. I should know - I still have it twenty-two years on, and wear it on particularly cold days. Then, whilst my right hand was placed against the old blockhouse overlooking the sea front, I was made to take an oath that my son would attend a Pools match before he was but two years old. And that he should be registered with the supporters' club (I had already done this a few weeks after he was born). And that I would to purchase for him on a weekly basis a Pools-on-the-Move lottery ticket. And finally that I would sing Two Little boys to him each before 'night nights'.

Solemnly whilst the tail of 'The' monkey was swung around my head six times as St Hilda's clock chimed I swore that I would carry out these tasks without question.  The gods spoke, and less than 12 months later The Boy was rewarded by scooping the first prize of £1,000 on the Pools-on-the-Move lottery. I was asked by the newsagent if I would prefer to be paid by cheque or in cash from Pools. Based on Pools' track record on settling debts and Mr Gibson being in charge at the time I opted for used untraceable bank notes, to be placed in a brown envelope.
"He ...returned with the scissors and said 'Give me that shirt.' 'That's my boy!' I thought."

A few weeks later our kid, myself and The Boy, one day short of his second birthday, headed off to the then Victoria Ground to see Pools play the mighty Barnet. I remember it being a very hot day. Initially we stood on the banked terracing in front of the Corner Flag club house and behind the actual corner flag on the pitch. (eat your hearts out GPS tracking) and plonked him on top of one of the barriers. It was clear that, as the temperature rose, this location was not going to a great place to be if we wanted to avoid sun-stroke, or any kind of stroke for that matter, so we took cover in the seats in the the Rink End. 

In the second half, despite the shelter, it was not getting any cooler. The heat, even with the ever-present North Sea breeze was almost tropical and The Boy was getting uncomfortable (Talk about two men and a baby). A kindly steward seeing our plight said that there were some seats at the other end of the stand which were well in the shade. Whilst he was taking us to our seats he said that we might get a surprise when we took up our new vantage point. Indeed we did - Pools had a shot on goal.

It was not until a few minutes later I noticed that we were sat one seat away from the then Blackburn manager Kenny Dalglish, who was taking in the match ahead of Rovers' game against either the Mackems or the Mags the following day. Rumour had it, or so Garry Gibson said, that he was running the rule over Brian Honour. However the Barnet evening paper said that he was looking at one of the Bees' young players. I know which I would believe. Apart from taking a sneaky photo of the former Liverpool legend I did not bother him as he did seem to be the dour Scot that many described him as. He left ten minutes before full time looking very unimpressed. A Pools player who had been in the players' bar with him after the game described him to me a few years later as a miserable so and so who would not speak to anyone. Never meet your heroes.

Brian Horne gets the drinks in 
Brian Horne says "Now it's your turn to get the drinks in!"

 Even though we were now sat in the shade it was still very hot and The Boy's water supply had run out. However just after the final whistle blew, help was at hand in the form of Brian Horne, the then Pools keeper, who came across and gave us his water bottle so The Boy could quench his thirst. Top top man. Not long afterwards, one of the first songs that The Boy came to love to sing before 'night nights' was the Poolie chant (to the tune of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine) "Number one is Brian Horne Number Two is Brian Horne number three is Brian Horne" etc.

Two Little Boys
The match ended in a one nil defeat. However another highlight was when Brian Honour was leaving the field of play and I shouted across to Horden's finest and literally threw The Boy over to him to get a photo of both my heroes together.

A proud moment for his Dad a couple of years later was The Boy's first day at school. He went wearing his Pools dut. I took him to a few matches as he got older but he did not like the noise when Pools scored, which in those days was quite regular, and to be fair it was very noisy in the Town End back then. So it was when he was nine or ten when he started going on a regular basis.

On one occasion he was a ball boy. That was funny in itself. 'Pools were playing Exeter or Torquay in a night match in the middle of winter. There was only a handful of away fans in the Rink End (They must have come on a skateboard!) Pools spent most of the time in their opponents' half and the only two people on the grass at the other end of the pitch were The Boy, all two foot and a bit of him, and Taffy Williams. He said Taffy did speak to him but he did not understand a word that he said.

Even though he wasn't regularly attending any Pools games he was becoming very interested in football in general. As well as all the Pools players, he pretty much knew every player's name in every division of every league in Britain and Europe, and what teams they all played for. Still does to a lesser extent.

From four to five years old he took an interest in some of the Premiership teams and at one stage or another he wore the colours of West Ham (Dagenham Dave as he became known) Arsenal and, for a short period which did cause me some concern, he asked for a Man United shirt. Then he got into all the continental and international teams and had the tops of PSG, Barca, Real Madrid, Aachen, England, Ireland and Argentina. However I was not too worried which top he had as long as it was not a Borer shirt. In truth I think that he was more interested in the shirts themselves (he even had a Mayo Gaelic football shirt) rather than the teams, but for a while I did think that he might go down the Arsenal route as he had several of their shirts.

Then a few years later, out of the blue, or should I say 'Into the Blue', he asked, without any pressure from Dad, if I would start taking him to see Pools, and the rest as they say is history. He became a Pools fanatic and from then on it was only Pools.

At about this time he seemed to take a great dislike to the Boro. I am not saying that I radicalised him but...

Part of The Boy's radicalisation
process during an open day 1995-ish
I once won a signed Borer shirt in a raffle. Pretty much everyone of the 50/60 people in the room where the raffle was drawn, all of whom knew my feelings towards Middlesbrough FC, said it had been written in the stars that I would win that shirt. Even before the ticket was drawn I was walking up to the prize-giving area to accept that red rag, because I too knew it had my name, or should I say number on it. I took the shirt home and kidded The Boy I had bought it as a present for him for doing so well at junior school. He ran out to the kitchen and returned with the scissors and said 'Give me that shirt.' 'That's my boy!' I thought.

The season that we got relegated from League One he told me that on the actual night that Pools lost their League One status he was at a party in Newcastle and even though it was inevitable that relegation had been a certainty for some weeks beforehand he left the party early and in tears. He was nineteen years old. 

Occasionally, particularly when Pools are going through a rough spell, he tells me that he wished that I had been a Manchester United or Chelsea fan and that life would have been a lot more enjoyable for him football-wise. Sometimes so do I!

* Presumably this refers to the site of the Elephant Rock, as the rock itself was washed away by a storm in 1891. Even Poolpower barely remembers that. Ed.



As any Pools fan would do, when your team are away you look out for the score or listen to the wireless to catch up on the game.

I am not a fan of Sky so this wireless thing is good for me. DIBDAB RADIO TEES, as they call it, gives you live match commentary. The Dib is for the Smoggies and the Dab is for the Poolies. The commentary is in a laid back style delivered by a couple of Pools fans, namely Ivan Ash, assisted by that ...err top notch sports writer for the Echo, Nick Laughline.

So there I was sitting on Saturday afternoon with my king size headphones tuning in to the commentary from the Orient. The thing I like about Mr Ash is, he is bit of a “wordsmith” with an unusual knack of sounding probably a bit posh, after all he is a country boy from the Yorkshire Dales. As a football pundit he is gentle on the ears, not your brash city boy who once played for a top club and knows it all. Mr Ash is a bit more like your radio two DJ who seems to have all the time in the world and never gets flustered or screams at the top of his voice when Pools score. As I said earlier, laid back with a much more sedate delivery. Even the tale of the Pools kit man (suffering from DVT* having travelled so many miles of late with the team) was put over in a calm, collected, even sentimental way.

In an interview with the Pools manager he asked Mr Hignett if he was “OBDURATE." "What does that mean?" was the manager's reply. I had to look it up too: stubborn. According to Mr Ash, Pools were playing in their M62 yellow strip and according to his assistant Mr Laughline the weather forecast was considered to be “swirling.”

The match begins:
Two minutes in and Pools have not touched the ball yet.
Orient's on-loan striker from Arsenal who has scored twenty three goals this season has not touched the ball either.
Not a lot of hair, this right back in the orange boots.
Nolan let go with that one and it went nowhere. How the mighty have fallen.
Tell everyone about the slope Nick.
Their twenty three-goal striker is on the ball; I suppose he is entitled to have a shot even if it was well wide.
They are claiming handball but it was only one hand.

The game progresses:
This lad runs like a threshing machine.
Even you could play in this game, Nick.
How hard is it to play the ball straight to the shin of your fellow man?
"They are claiming handball but it was only one hand."
Luke, he is five foot three, six stone wringing wet but he did his job.
Twelve yards out and the net should be hanging off yet all he could do was float a ball in.
Twenty three goals eh. He does a lot of good things but that was not one of them. It looked like an eight iron scuffler.
Good to see a Hartlepool hard man get in the penalty area.
Not seen the likes since Smith or Hartley, or your man, Nick, what was his name again? - Sword.
It is a better view here than in the hostility boxes.

Even some of the Pools side are not safe under the Ash gaze:
Magnay has the ball. Don’t shoot! You are a defender.
Thomas has really improved on his free kicks and corners. That was a dreadful corner from him.

Pools cruise to a win:
That could be a coffin nail for York.
Goal to Pools. Credit to them - to get the home fans booing.
Better bring on Jones for the Alamo.
He may have been tripped but he fell very late.
Higgy looks calm, unperturbed, almost obdurate.
Pools made a twenty three-goal striker look very ordinary.
A brief rain shower in Orient, if only I hadn't put my sheets on the line.
Erudite thoughts as boos ring out around the ground.
Four blank sheets, it is party time at Hartlepool.

* DVT = Deep Vein Thrombosis

The Streets of London

Match report by ALAN ESSEX at the Matchroom Stadium (Brisbane Road)

Leyton Orient 0 Pools 2 (League 2) Monday March 28th 2016

Well in this part of London the streets are certainly not paved with gold. Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of Leyton, I'll show you something to make you change your mind. 

An anagram of Leyton Orient is ‘Ronney Toilet’ certainly quite apt as the streets are paved with toilets, sanitary ware, plumbing & building supplies and bedding – all the overspill from the local shops. A sad, shabby area on the fringes of the prosperous Docklands. An area that largely provides the cheap work force that services the wealthier a stones throw away.

Back street car sales and repairers that have been there for as long as I can remember Nestle (it’s Easter, I said I’d mention as many chocolate manufacturers as I could) amongst domestic dwellings and fast food outlets. A few years ago property prices rose on the back of the 2012 London Olympics. The street-long terraces were renovated and hopes for a sustained improvement were raised on the back of politicians' idle promises. The politicians have moved on and the money has dried up. It’s reverted back to its former state.
"Without doubt the best I’ve seen Pools play for many a year"

For all of this I still love the area as I used to live quite near for a long time and spent a lot of time in Leyton itself. It’s an honest area with no pretensions of being something it isn’t. I’ve always found this reflected in the club's supporters who go along in hope rather than expectation. Rather like many of us Pools supporters.

As a lot of you will know, Leyton Orient occupy the geographical footballing area dominated by those premiership giants West Ham, Tottenham and Arsenal with their Galaxy (there’s another one) of multi million pound players receiving astronomical wages. Until recently Kevin Nolan would have been one of them, having played in the top flight with Bolton Wanderers (yes, seems like a long time ago since they were top flight), Newcastle and West Ham. Sam Allardyce must have been a fan as he managed him at all 3 clubs. Well now Nolan is the player manager at the Orient, their 5th manager since 2014. His record going into today’s game was good having played 12, won 7, drawn 1 and lost 4. They were 8th in the table, one place outside of the play offs. Of course Hartlepool had also had a good spell and put some space between the bottom two and themselves.

The game started with Orient pressing but not looking dangerous. I was impressed by our back 4 and their ability to play the ball out of danger, rather than long hopeful clearances. The midfield too played their part in playing some great passing movements turning defence into attack. However in the first half Pools didn’t trouble Alex Cisak the Orient keeper. To be fair both teams were playing attractive football and neither side committed any notable fouls with the referee (Frederick Graham) having a good game.

Pools built pressure and at one stage had 3 successive corners, all troubling the Orient defence but with no goal as a reward. Towards the end of the half Thomas took an inch perfect free kick from the left to Paynter who headed in, only to be ruled offside. No one complained and it was the right decision. During the half time break there was a big roar from the Pools supporters at the news York (wonderful chocolate Easter eggs they make) were 3 down. Surely it would be Kinder (funny plastic tasting chocolate eggs with even more plastic inside) just to relegate them now?

Orient started the second half brightly but it was Pools turning defence into attack that led to the first goal. Featherstone found James who beat his man and passed to Carroll who ran the left wing sending in a low cross for Paynter to score. This was 4 minutes into the new half. Pools now piled on more pressure and looked good for a second. This came when Hawkins fed a ball to Thomas on the right wing, he beat his marker and sent a shot into the net, easily beating Cisak at an angle.

Woods, on as a substitute for Hawkins, who had taken a slight knock, nearly got a third with a good solo break, but was denied by the keeper diving at his feet. A couple of truly excellent saves by Carson kept out late Orient efforts and led to another clean sheet for the defence.

Without doubt the best I’ve seen Pools play for many a year – I don’t think I’ve ever seen the defence play their way out of trouble like they did today. Every player played their part well and none could be faulted. Orient played their part and were not an overly physical side, also trying to play with style, not like the days when they had ex-Sunderland player Sean Thornton (more chocolates!) in their side. A massive well done to Craig Hignett and Curtis Fleming who have turned the team around with the same players and got them playing attractive football with a sound defence.

I suppose it’s the butterfly effect but if Ellis Harrison had not been injured at Cambridge and had been a moderate success, which he looked to be capable of, Ronnie Moore may have had a few more victories and still be at the club. It just shows how fragile and interconnected everything is. What a pleasant change to report on a good result and performance. Let’s have some more.

Oh, and an apology to Cadbury’s I just couldn’t think how I could get you into this report. Well, I’m off for a Gluten free, dairy free, additive free, vegan, sugarless Easter egg. 

Three Points Without Playing Well

Match report by OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT at the Vic

Pools 1 Wimbledon 0 (League 2) Saturday March 26th 2015

As it looked like being a fine day I decided to don for the first time my yellow away top. The Bride commented that she wished I was that bright. I then heard her rummaging through the kitchen drawers. "What are you looking for" I said. My sun glasses - that shirt is hurting my eyes". 

"She wore the sun glasses at breakfast. Her idea of sarcasm. The doorbell rang and as I approached the front door to open it I could see its brilliant white colour turn into yellow. I felt like the lad in the Ready Brek advert 'glowing all over'. A little later I put my black jumper on over the shirt for no other reason than to protect it as I did not not want to get paint on it whilst I was in the process of putting camouflage on an Airfix model Aircraft (Vought F4U- 1A Corsair for those who are interested) which I purchased nearly twenty years ago and which I recently found in a box in the garage.

Setting off for the match my neighbour collared me and said "How bright is that shirt that you are wearing?" Bearing in mind he could only see the collar protruding over my black jumper that I was still wearing, I then realized that you could actually see the yellow through the black material of the jumper. He suggested that Pools should sell them as cycling shirts. I did point out that the cloth is actually a lot brighter than the Hi Vis vest used by the emergency services and that you get issued with a free pair of ear muffs with them because they are so loud.

I knew there was going to be a larger crowd than usual as I had to park a good 100 yards away from my normal parking spot on Lancaster road. I stood next to my mate who straight away made some remark about my yellow shirt, which was a bit strange as there were a good few other supporters wearing the same top standing nearby to us. Is my shirt yeller that the rest of them or something?

Got into the ground shortly before kick off and passed on the news to 'Mr' Ditchburn (we have not been formally introduced) that due to a prior engagement, which I can now reveal as buying film for his camera, Running Monkey would not make the game until the second half. "Either you or me will have to do the match report", 'Mr' Ditchburn said. I can't recall how I have ended up with the job but I am sure 'Mr' Ditchburn said something about not having any lead in his pencil. So here goes -  not so much a match report, more of an Odyssey ...sorry, oddity.

Prior to kick off a minutes silence was immaculately observed, bar the turnstiles clicking, out of respect for those who lost their lives in the bombings in Brussels and more poignantly for David Dixon who was from Hartlepool.

Craig Hignett quite rightly named an unchanged side for this fixture - why change a drawing team? The game started off at a fast and furious pace with both sides going full pelt. I don't know if it was because Real Dons were playing in green and navy stripes that they seemed to have far more players on the pitch than Pools had - there seemed to be dozens of them.

Their left winger was a handful and caused Carl Magnay as have many other wingers recently, all kinds of problems. He does not seem to be able to cope with wide men who run at him. In fact generally he is not coping in his defensive duties all round. Real Dons were adept at getting the ball into the Pools box very quickly and on the break. If it wasn't for an excellent save from Trevor Carson and a great tackle from the massively improving Matty Bates, Pools could have been two down in the opening half hour.

Carson did well to make the game, let alone the save, as he was in the Northern Ireland squad at Cardiff the night before for their friendly against Wales. It also shows the level of his commitment to Pools that he got back between the sticks for the game against Wimbledon, as all those who went to the play off final in 2005 know it is a right old hike back from Cardiff, plus there is always the fear of losing your place in the team. I'm guessing that he would not have got back up north until around 6 a.m.
"Craig Hignett quite rightly named an unchanged side for this fixture - why change a drawing team?"

Both sides kept pressing and in the 21st minute Pools got their reward when a misdirected overhead kick by Luke James found its way to Adam Jackson to head in and score the third league goal of his career. Pools were unlucky not to double the score when Luke James hit the post from about ten yards. A few fans are complaining that James is not scoring goals. Notwithstanding that the lad is playing out of position, his contribution to the team cannot be over estimated. He worries defenders with his pace. His work rate is phenomenal,  particularly at closing down defenders, and if he gets knocked down no matter how hard, he just picks himself up and gets on with it. From memory he has had assists in at least four of Pools goals. I believe he is one of the reasons for the turn around in Pools performances and it can only be a matter of time before he bags his first goal for Pools, and I for one will be delighted for the lad.

Half time and Pools were one nil up but Real Dons were marginally the better of the two sides, and unlucky not to be level.

During the interval my group were debating not Craig Hignett's team selection or tactics, but his choice of clothing for touch line duties. He is neither a track suit or a suit and tie manager. Looking at his pitch-side attire yesterday of slacks open necked shirt and V neck jumper complemented by a bomber jacket, it is more in keeping with the Alan Partridge look of 'Classic Sports Casual'. Personally I like to see my managers kitted out head to toe in Harris Tweed with a watch and chain contained in the pocket of a waistcoat. I do however draw the line at Speedos.

Our group were also in agreement that Real Dons would not be able to sustain the pace and energy that they displayed in the first half which had left one or two of our defenders puffing a bit. We also wondered if Nathan Thomas would get involved in the the game at some stage. However on both counts we were wrong. Real Dons came at us from the start and looked more hungry than Pools. For pretty much the whole of the second period Pools were pushed deeper and deeper into their own half. So deep in fact I thought the shirt sponsor was not Seneca Homes but London Underground.

Pools spent the majority of the last 25 minutes clearing the ball, and not very well, anywhere they could in the hope that a forward would latch on to it for a breakaway, which is technically and tactically not possible when you have eleven of your own team mates penned in and around your own penalty box.

Real Dons had reverted back to their Crazy Gang days of long balls going into the Pools box from every direction, including seven corners. It has to be said that Pools rode their luck but let's take nothing away from Bates and Jackson, they were both magnificent, coping with some very tall players including Adebayo Akinfenwa, better known as the beast, who came on in the 71st minute. At 16 clem he looked more like a rugby player than a footballer. but he only lasted about 5 minutes before he left the field with a cut head. I did not think 3 foot thick brick walls could bleed.

After four minutes of additional time the ref, who I thought had a reasonable game, blew for full time and it would be fair to say that the 3 points gained was more important than the way we played.

My mate summed the match up succinctly (which I should have done instead of writing all this dross), when he said "If Pools had been the away team, this would have been a great performance." 

Rarely Threatening

Match report by ALREET at the Broadfield Stadium

Crawley 0 Pools 0 (League 2) Saturday March 19th 2016

It was a bright day in Crawley and, although the ground is within a reasonable walking distance from the station, I opted to jump on the local No.10 bus. This is a good service and stops right outside the ground so it can’t be faulted.

The single deck bus is rather smart and doesn’t conform to the usual stock having a ramp with corresponding staggered seating rising from its centre rather than the usual steps. Arriving at the ground, I walked through the car park to the visitors' entrance and noted an unusual bicycle stand built into the external base of the away end.

It seemed strange not to be surrounded by a large group of penguins as on my previous visit. On that occasion, I stood behind the goal but decided to ‘go upmarket’ and have a seat in the visitors' section of the adjacent stand. I hadn’t realized that this has the appearance of a temporary stand and the ground below can be seen when looking at the base of the seats.

The red roof allows the light to pass through and is supported by several pillars which mar the view of the pitch and the whole structure gives the impression of being inside a huge marquee. Moving round the ground, I noticed a large number of Herring Gulls wheeling around behind the far end. I don’t know the attraction but it wasn’t quite the Hitchcock re-enactment that occurs over the Millhouse terrace at the final whistle.

Watching the pre-match warm up, I was confused by one of our players until I worked out it had to be Bingham sporting a short haircut. The home team kicked off proceedings attacking the Poolie end and their No.7 soon went on a long run which was put behind for a corner. Carroll was involved in a passing move across the pitch before Gray made a good run down the right but his appeal for a corner was turned down. Crawley did win a corner but the Pools defence hoofed the ball out for a throw-in.

A long cross into our box was caught by Carson at the second attempt before Thomas put in a ball from outside the area which was hacked clear. The Crawley No. 30 made a swift run across our box before laying the ball off but the resulting cross was headed wide. A poor header from Magnay led to a teasing cross which was taken by Carson.

On nineteen minutes, Carroll put a shot just wide of the left post which I believe was the first worthwhile effort of the afternoon. Thomas then had a shot deflected for a corner, Featherstone was tripped in the opposition half and Paynter won a couple of headers. A poor corner taken by Gray fell to Hawkins but his shot was wayward and bore no comparison with his recent spectacular efforts. Pools produced a good probing move down their right but the resulting low cross went behind for a goal kick.

My attention was then caught by several large grey feathers which fluttered down in front of the stand and landed on the pitch. The strident alarm calls of a Magpie from behind me suggested that a Woodpigeon had been taken by a Sparrowhawk.

Featherstone sent a right-foot shot over the bar and Thomas put in a cross which was weakly headed wide of the post. Crawley retaliated with a left-footed effort over the bar. Pools won a free kick but the resulting shot went straight to their keeper. The referee blew his whistle on what had been a drab first half and as he did so, a female Sparrowhawk with its diagnostic “flap, flap, glide” flight worked its way over the opposite corner. Sometimes when watching Pools, it’s handy to have other interests.

During the interval, the announcer introduced a local featherweight boxer (Ben Jones) who has a bout coming up in a couple of weeks. He was there to promote his title defence but, apparently, is a man of few words and was met with a predictable chorus of, “Who are you?” from the Poolie end. The second half began with early pressure from Crawley who forced a corner from a right wing cross but Carson safely gathered the resulting kick.

On 52 minutes, Thomas was pulled down which earned the offender a yellow card. A low left cross to the far post just eluded the advancing Gray who couldn’t untangle the ball from his feet but it found its way back to Thomas who moved inside his marker only to see his right-footed shot rebound off the bar.
"Sometimes when watching Pools, it’s handy to have other interests"

Crawley won a cheap free kick on the edge of our box but it came to nothing. Magnay lost possession inside Crawley’s half of the centre circle and they immediately found themselves in a two-on-one situation and advanced quickly on our goal. Carson, however, had other ideas and made a decent save then managed to turn the ball out for a corner. Crawley made a double substitution, one needing no introduction in the shape of Simon Walton.

Pools built an attack only for Thomas to be crowded out on the edge of the box. We had three chances in quick succession but all proved fruitless. James was robbed while attacking on our right flank but chased half the length of the field to redeem himself. A long ball out of defence from Hawkins reached Thomas who closed in on goal but he was forced wide on to his right foot and his shot went well wide.

James played Gray in only for the keeper to come out and collect. Hawkins, who hadn’t reached his previous dizzy heights, was replaced by Walker. In added time, Thomas was felled by Walton who was booked for this misdemeanour and he received the largest reaction from the Poolies all afternoon although, to be fair, there had been precious little to cheer previously. Walker took the kick and watched the keeper push it out but when it came back to him, his second attempt was well wide of the target and hit the roof.

Pools had a huge let off in the dying seconds when a close range cross was met by one of their marauding central defenders directly in front of our net but, fortunately, he somehow managed to steer his diving header wide of our left post. An enormous let off and who knows how that will affect our final position?

Carson made a great double save but that apart, he spent the majority of the game collecting high lofted punts and redistributing back passes. Magnay had an average game, getting caught out on a couple of occasions but generally sound. Although encouraged to move the ball forward when we attack, he has a tendency to play safe and pass the ball backwards thus slowing down our play.

Bates had another secure afternoon, calling on his experience to read the game and snuffing out possible dangerous situations. Jackson likewise, a good solid display with unhurried authority. Carroll has been a revelation when I’ve seen him recently. His defensive and attacking play have improved in equal measure and he looked comfortable in both roles. He was confident, unhurried on the ball and linked up well in our overall play.

Gray has energy to burn and got into dangerous positions although he did miss our best chance. Featherstone was at the hub of most of our play, bringing the ball out of defence with neat, short passes and making himself available to help others out of awkward situations. Thomas covered most of the pitch when tracking back or, more often, when attacking. He put in a lot of effort and got into good positions but if only he could keep his shots down.

Hawkins put in a determined display but didn’t achieve his exploits of late and was subbed. Paynter did his best with some lay-offs under pressure but was closely marked by a couple of defenders throughout and posed little threat. James can never be questioned over his work rate but he badly needs a goal to open his account. He doesn’t appear to be getting many opportunities to achieve this but his cause wasn’t helped by the constant manhandling he received.

That was a boring affair with very little meaningful activity. Pools controlled large sections of the game and, at times, looked a decent side as they strung several passes together, moving their way out of defence, across the pitch and probing down the flanks. However, they rarely threatened the home goal. Crawley weren’t much better, largely relying on quick forays down our flanks but, again, without causing too many chances.

Funny Old Game

Cartoons: Warnock & Sport Relief
A Great Team Performance

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic

Pools 3 Dagenham & Redbridge 1 (League 2) Saturday March 12th 2016

Dagenham, sitting at the bottom of the division just two places behind Pools, had only taken three points out of the last nine games but experience tells us that you never count your chickens. Teams at the bottom often throw up a torrent of explanations as to why they are in a false position and invariably throw up the odd unexpected result to help their situation. 

The “Never Say Die” tag we carry was borne out of such perennial desperation to rally the troops and the fans in long months of turmoil and desperate football throughout our club's history. Even in times of success we have come up short at the last gasp. I do not travel to games but I remember going to Scunthorpe on a wet dismal day and getting stuffed four nil by a side packed with quality loan players yet we were promoted the same day - which at the time came as quite a shock to the incumbent manager. Another game I managed to get to was at Rushden and Diamonds, and again some quality loan players pipped us at the post and took the title.

I won’t comment on the Cardiff trip as due to circumstances I was the only Poolie left in the town on that day, Even though I was not there I have a theory that the powers that be colluded to exclude little old Hartlepool from ever getting into a lofty position such as the Championship. Sour grapes you might say but I still hold with that theory when you look back on that game, Sheffield were the chosen ones. Sorry about this little journey into the past - as you get older you hanker for the old times, but in this case I will stick with the status quo and just as every Pools fan does year after year just go with the flow.

The point I was trying to make was in the situation of the bottom six clubs our position does not look so bad, Not entirely out of the woods but after the last two games looking better and the team playing better which is all the Pools fans expect.

The Ditchburn Poolie  informed me that once again the ref for the day, Mr. England,, was a substitute but thought that he had been to the Vic on one other occasion.
"the visitors ...just could not cope with the Pools onslaught"

The visitors today seem to have taken on the bad luck most of the bottom teams get, a penalty against them in the first five minutes. A definite pen as Luke was literally dived on in the box and had the life squashed out of him (not literally).

Paynter takes his tally to twelve and Pools settle and play some good football. From where I was at the opposite end of the field I thought Paynter then doubled his tally as he raised a hand in salute but the goal was given to Carroll who had got the touch needed on the Thomas cross to make it two nil to the Hartlepool.

Two early goals really set up Pools and gone was the hoof ball of the past and some slick football was produced as we got stuck in at the visitors, who just could not cope with the Pools onslaught. Jones looks an accomplished no-nonsense player, and despite his lack of games he fitted in well at the back and was prepared to go up front, coming very close to getting on the score sheet with a header just wide of the post. He did go off at half time after taking a clattering late in the first half.

The goal the visitors scored really came out of the blue as most home fans were just expecting the tight Hartlepool defence to break up the attack. The lad picked up the ball on a break and made his way across the field and hit a low bobbling shot that skimmed past Carson, which shook up the Pools side a little. Buoyed by their success after being on the back foot for most of the half they started to play a bit and Carroll made a great block right on the line to deny the visitors a second goal.

The Ditchburn, who is normally very dour at half time, is reminiscent of Fraser from Dad's Army, claiming "We're doomed I tell you, doomed", was half breaking out into a smile and commented that the first half had been very entertaining. I did give him a hard toffee to suck on and to keep him entertained until I got back from my half time walk about.

Despite us kicking down bank in the second half, all the action early on was in the Rink End as the visitors hammered our goal looking for an equaliser. A break out from Gray was magnificent as he raced down and across the pitch, and hit a low shot the Daggers' keeper had no chance with, and Pools were flying again, three one up.

The second half was even better than the first with both teams having chances. I thought Paynter was certain to score again as Thomas tortured two defenders, got to the by line and hit a low shot into the box that Paynter just failed to turn into the net. Hawkins is growing in stature after his goals last week, he gets stuck in and was stamped on close to the dead ball line in the Town End but was able to carry on.

This was a great team performance albeit against one of the bottom sides, but we still have to beat them. Some of the Pools football was great to watch as we had only previously seen very brief spells of great attacking football this season.
Barnet (Very) Fair

Match report by BILL THE BIRO at the Hive

Barnet 1 Pools 3 (League 2) Saturday March 5th 2016

Barnet has always been one of my favourite away trips. I know they haven’t been a league club very long, and frequently go off for the odd season back with their old chums in the Conference, but I took to them in a way I haven’t with some of the other newcomers. 

Perhaps it’s because, like Hartlepool in Tees Valley, it’s part of London, yet out on the periphery, sort of semi-detached, with green fields nearby. And their Underhill ground was great. With a sloping pitch, a Meccano-set uncovered away stand and a big old pub round the corner, it had character. And in the days of the old printed Monkey Business it was a doddle to sell there, as everyone had to walk past you to get in, and being in London there were always plenty of ex-pat Poolies to sell it to.

Barnet's home-made stand with its token effort of a roof
However, times move on and Barnet had to leave Underhill and have now relocated to the Hive, their old training ground, which isn’t actually in Barnet, but about 6 miles away. The stadium itself looks a bit cobbled-together, with two tiny covered terraces at the ends, a decent modern stand on one side and a sort of home-made stand on the other, consisting of a few rows of seats against a wall. And overlooking the stadium is a railway embankment on which run frequent Underground trains.

One for the railway buffs, with the trains more visible than at the Vic.
Anyway, after having allowed enough time to cope with getting lost due to forgetting to set the satnav, I was able to park outside the ground, have a good look round what seems to be a neat sports complex, and have a pint while watching the second half of Spurs v Arsenal in the bar under the stand, which is more of a bar (with doors and windows and heating) than you get in most stadiums.

The obvious point of interest for Poolies was Rob Jones, the new man, who looked the part, like a taller Mirfin.

After the kick-off, Barnet didn’t seem too good but Pools were woeful, being unable to string two passes together, and also seeming half asleep, perhaps with one or two exceptions, such as Rob Jones and Lewis Hawkins.

Then Barnet’s smallest player danced through three tackles to give them the lead and we were all thinking “another hammering”. However we hadn’t counted on Lewis Hawkins, who produced a wonderful long-distance shot to equalise.
"Thomas’s goal put the lid on what was a comfortable victory after a shaky start."

That seemed to act like an alarm clock going off for Pools, and suddenly the game changed. After his league debut goal, Lewis Hawkins proved it wasn’t a fluke a few minutes later by repeating the feat from slightly further forward, and Pools more or less controlled the rest of the first half.

In the second half Pools continued where they had left off, and Thomas’s goal put the lid on what was a comfortable victory after a shaky start. The Poolie singing was excellent, too.

While I should be saying this was a team performance and that they were all heroes, in reality it was perhaps that Pools were good enough to beat a poor side.

I thought Carroll looked good while Magnay didn’t. Trevor Carson never noticed the Poolies were singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him even though he had very little to do all afternoon. Bates was ok, as was Featherstone, and Thomas was a handful at times. Billy Paynter didn’t do much, and against Barnet a quicker player might have had more success.

Jake Gray caused problems everywhere, as expected. Luke James did his usual running about without achieving much. But the two star men had to be Rob Jones and Lewis Hawkins, both of whom rarely put a foot wrong.

While this is an encouraging result, the lethargic start following the thumping at Bristol makes me think that there will be a few more ups and downs this season.