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."