Showing posts from May, 2016

The 2016 Awards Night

RUNNING MONKEY has pictures from the Grand Hotel


The 2016 end-of-season awards night was held at Hartlepool's Grand Hotel during the final week of the season, and these pics should give a feel of the event.

The awards winners were:

Trevor Carson
Player of the year
Players' player of the year
Service to the community award

Lewis Hawkins
Goal of the season

Billy Paynter
Away player of the year

Adam Jackson
Young player of the year

Sam Collins
Ken Johnson Trophy for long service to the club

Compere Phil Dunn does his stuff
The chairman gives his thoughts

The top table
The players take a bow, so to speak
The glittering prizes await presentation

Billy Paynter gets a shield
for best beard
Adam Jackson gets a cup
for best young beard
Lewis Hawkins gets a cup
for best goal-scoring beard
Sam Collins gets a plate for 
long-service designer stubble
...but Trevor Carson managed to get a shed-full of trophies 
...despite minimal facial hair. none were left for Rhys Oates, Rakish Bingham, Josh Laurent or Jake Gray.
Could excessive razor use have been a reason perhaps?

Clean-shaven Cody Collins did 
manage to get his hands on a trophy. 
But then it was his stubbly dad's.

Steady as She Goes!!


I suppose that having to play teams from the two premier naval dockyards in our last two fixtures, a good old seafaring expression would be appropriate. At one time, it looked as though we might be struggling to hold on to our league status but in the end it worked out ok and we were able to relax in the final run in.
In some ways, our strength was defeating teams at or below mid table – not always one of our qualities in past seasons. Of course, we didn’t perform too well against the top seven teams as the following indicates:
Northampton TownDrewLost
Accrington StanleyLostLost
Oxford UnitedLostLost
Plymouth ArgyleLost?
AFC WimbledonWonLost

Yet, in those results against the top seven, there was some slight encouragement. We brought Northampton’s winning run to an end and, in my view, performed well against Portsmouth. We were able to create the chances against Pompey – if only we’d put them away.
Our attention will now turn to the retained list and who might come in. Jake Gray, Luke James and Adam Jackson will, of course, be going back to their parent clubs and, at some stages, have made a significant contribution to our improved performances. The signing of Nathan Thomas was definitely the signing of the season and with him and Luke James on the flanks we were able to drive some teams ragged – the York game, for example.
Speaking of York, I was sorry to see them relegated from the Football League. It deprives us of an away game within spitting distance of Hartlepool; however, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Doncaster could well come into League Two and of the four teams coming down from League One three will be northern clubs. Speaking of York City, reminded me of a story which I picked up when I worked down there. Before the advent of Elf and Safety, painting and cleaning jobs at the lower league clubs were done by volunteers. Nobody bothered about getting up a ladder to paint the stand but obviously we’re into a new ball game and paid contractors now come in to do the work. One such volunteer at York City spent all his time there and, engaged to be married, his girlfriend said, ‘I’m sick of this. Make your mind up, its me or York City’. His response was ‘In that case, give me the ring back!’ That’s dedication.
"Nathan Thomas was definitely the signing of the season"
I suppose its too early to look in terms of a promotion push next season but if we are to be in the frame can we please have automatic promotion – as in 2003 and 2007. That would spare us the ordeal of having to go to Wembley for a play off final. I’ve never been able to understand this obsession with Wembley; there are plenty of club grounds which could stage England games and a League Two final is never going to fill the place. Could you imagine, for example, if Pools met a club from the North West or a southern club in a play off final? Wouldn’t it be better to play the game at somewhere like Leeds or Villa Park. Worth a thought. I suppose there might be a case for staging the Championship Final at Wembley but that is as far as it should go. As I’ve said, we don’t really need Wembley – maybe the place could have been turned over to social housing.
April was, of course, twenty seven years since the Hillsborough disaster and the families are now getting justice after the verdict of unlawful killing. I was listening to Radio Five and a retired Church of England bishop was relating his experiences after the disaster where, in his capacity of Archdeacon of Sheffield, was called on to give comfort to the families, along with church colleagues. He spoke very movingly of his experiences but was highly critical of the police who were generally without feeling and suggested that the various agencies had conspired in a cover up. It took a long time but justice was finally achieved. 

They Are out of Our League


Big Monkey Business congratulations to Darlow A66 on winning the Evo Stik glue sniffers’ Northern Premier League.
A late surge saw them  finished the season  as champions with 104 points, 5 points ahead of their nearest rivals Blyth Spartans, scoring 106 goals in the process, which according to my maths is not quite a point per goal.

Ironically had Blyth done the double over Darlow A66 instead of the other way around Blyth would have been crowned champions. As a result Darlow A66 have been promoted to the Bananarama National League North, which is the division below The National League or, in old money, The Conference.

To give the Quakers their due, they have been promoted 3 times in four seasons, which is creditable but I think that even their most hardened fans would be the first to acknowledge that with a few exceptions the standard of opposition they have encountered over the last few years has perhaps not been of the highest calibre.

Next season will be a different proposition altogether. Tougher opponents like Kiddy, Stockport and FC Manchester spring to mind. Two games less to play in this league compared to the Evo Stik will mean some loss of revenue but this could be countered by increased crowd attendances.

The big news is that in keeping with their name Darlington  A66, they are moving back into the town and will, after much negotiation, ground share with Darlington Rugby Club at Black Meadows, which is adjacent to the A66. How apt.

Black Meadows is having a million pounds spent on it to bring it up to grade B football standard, with new car park and toilet facilities as well as increased seating. The rumour was that they were going to erect a new stand, widely believed to be the impressive East Stand from Feethams that allegedly is still in storage, either on Graythorp Industrial Estate or in David Hodgson's back garden. As it turns out the stand that they are going to re-install from Feethams is not the East Stand but the old Hartlepool popular end, The Tin Shed, which in fairness won't be that aesthetically pleasing to the surrounding area.

In the short term this ground share with the rugby club makes sense, particularly for increased crowd attendances and subsequent revenue, as fans are not having to hitch up their caravans to make the journey to Bishop Auckland, where they have played since they left The Arena.

Long term might prove more problematic for them, particularly should they be successful and look to regain Football League status. Despite the current investment in the rugby club, Black Meadows, even with goal posts instead of jumpers, would still not meet the relevant criteria for a Football League ground. As mentioned previously in this magazine it surely would make sense to relocate to The Arena as tenants and ground share with Mowden Park, who currently occupy the site, but I am unsure about the politics of such a move. One Darlo A66 fan told me they'd have more chance of ground sharing with ,Pools.
"Black Meadows, even with goal posts instead of jumpers, would still not meet the relevant criteria for a Football League ground"


Talking of Lazarus clubs, I see that  Boston, formerly Boston United, now of National League North, clinched a play off place which, if all goes well, could see them back in the National League, so well done to them. They finished five places behind league champions Solihull Moors. Great name that.

Sadly FC Halifax, formerly Halifax Town, just missed out by one point and were relegated from the  National League, and next season will be playing the likes of Darlo A66 in the National League North. If it is any kind of consolation to them they do have a date with Grimsby Town at Wembley in the FA Trophy final in the coming weeks.

Torquay, who for a little while sat in the bottom four of the National League and looked like having the same fate as FC Halifax, managed, not unlike Pools, to put a good run together and retained their league status by a comfortable margin.
Chester City likewise kept their heads above water in The National League. I much prefer calling it The Conference.

Stockport finished just above mid-table in National League North. It is truly sad to see a club of this size languishing in this league.

The best story of all, or should I say the best fairy tale of all, is that of Hereford FC, formerly Hereford United. As of today (April 30th) they, by finishing as league champions, climb out of the fifth division of non-league football and into the league above as part of the long haul back to Football League status.

Despite numerous setbacks they have managed to get back to Edgar Street and they now enjoy the fifth-largest attendances in the whole of the non-league pyramid, and with a very impressive average gate of 2,998. Not bad when you are competing against Tranmere, Wrexham and Grimsby, and larger than some League Two sides.

Not unlike FC Halifax, they too are making the trip to Wembley in May when they face Morpeth in the FA Vase.

I always had a soft spot for the Bulls, as many years ago, after a fire at Victoria Park had destroyed among other things Pools’ strips, Hereford assisted by donating kits to help Pools out in their hour of need.

It would be great to see many of the aforementioned clubs back in the Football League along with the likes of Lincoln City, Tranmere, Bradford Park Avenue and not forgetting the Heed, and taking the places of Crawley, Stevenage, Wycombe, and Yeovil, as well as MK Dons.

It just goes to show that if even if the worst happens and your club goes bust or is relegated to the lower echelons of non-league football, there is life after League Two.

Chin up, York!

Poetic Off-Licence

JANE AUSTEN'S ALLEGRO goes all Shakespearean

To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Bill Shakespeare, and by way of tribute, we have put together the following piece, imagining The Bard of Avon was writing for Monkey Business.

Act 1  Scene 1

I knew for certain it was now the winter of our discontent as I walked past the Vic on the 10th day of February 2016, some five weeks after Twelfth night, when I heard a voice cry out  from the sponsors’ lounge balcony “Ronnie Moore, Ronnie Moore, wherefore art thou Ronnie Moore?”
Parting is such sweet sorrow”, Moore muttered under his breath as he left (stage right) by mutual consent.

I must admit to feeling sorry for Ronnie, as on the back of the previous season’s performances and players that he signed close season, the playoffs were, verily, the least that I expected under his managerial reign. As the Bard once said “Oft expection fails, and most oft there”, which sums up my feeling of Pools this season. Equally it could be argued that for the fans, and for fans of most clubs, it is the case that the course of true love never did run smooth.


Unlike his predecessor Ken Hodcroft - a man more sinned against than sinning, Chairman Gary Coxall acted speedily to install (enter stage left) Craig Hignett, the former Crewe, Barnsley and Blackburn player, as Pools' new manager. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

Meanwhile away from the Vic our youthful chairman revealed that lines of communication have reopened with Team Valley Borough Council regarding the purchase of the ground from its landlords when he let it slip that the first thing we do is kill the lawyers. Which is a more positive strategy than Mr Hovercraft's who would not even talk to the bright lights at the Corporation with his “Nothing will come of nothing” policy.


In a recent Yorkshire television interview, despite his dismissal, Ronnie Moore was very complimentary about Hartlepool United and in particular about Gary Coxall and his plans for the club and said that under his guidance Pools are going places. Ronnie went further by saying he feels that Pools will be promotion contenders 2016/17 season. Mind, he did stop short of saying that he would be putting a bet on them. If Ronnie’s prediction comes to fruition, all Poolies as one will cry “God for Gary, England and St.George.”


After a sluggish start in the managerial chair Craig Hignett got to grips with his squad and the ball literally started rolling with a 3-1 away win at Barnet. This was followed up with the same result at home against our fellow relegation strugglers from the East End of London. Higgy, still somewhat unfamiliar with the League Two scene, was actually unsure who we were playing on that day, when he was heard to say "Is this the Daggers I see before me?

A few weeks later, what at one stage everyone thought would be a six pointer and season defining match, against the House of York, turned out to be a routine three points for Pools, who by that time were a dozen points clear of the Minstermen.

Many Pools fans lamented City's drop into the National League. Alas poor York, we knew them well, as many a happy day was spent in their fair town by the Poolie hordes over the years, doing much the same to the locals and property that the Vikings did. A grand day out (oops, that's Wallace and Gromit, not Shakespeare).

In Pools’ penultimate away game they were given huge praise by the Oxford Manager, fans and press alike as being the best away team to visit the Kassam stadium this season. Higgy dismissed the platitudes and glumly put the result in black and white with the words. “Two-nil or not Two-nil, that is the question.

A brief summary of what is now almost last season:
First month, four wins on the trot, being As You Like it. Then as the season progressed it became A Comedy of Errors. For the last four or five weeks of the season we were more or less safe from relegation so it was a case of Much Ado About Nothing.
So we will look back fondly and say All's Well that Ends Well.


Here are a few other Shaky Shakespeare quotations that could be attributed to Pools in one form or another. Allegedly, maybe or perhaps...

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this Victoria Park.”
- Dave Brown, Pools groundsman

Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave.”  - Heard on the supporters’ bus coming back home after the one-nil away defeat to Carlisle
"Ronnie Moore, Ronnie Moore, wherefore art thou Ronnie Moore?"

I cannot tell what the dickens his name is.” Was Ronnie Moore referring to Kudus Oyenuga,  Ebby Nelson-Addy or  or Aaron Tshibola?

For my own part it was Greek to me.”  Allegedly there was talk of Dimi coming back to Pools the season before last prior to his move to 'boer war.' Bet Ronnie could not understand him.

I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it” Nobby Solano / Jack Compton / Robbie Elliott / Steve Howard ...and several dozen others.

Fair is foul and foul is fair”  Carl Boyeson, occasional referee.

If music be the food of love make mine a Pukka pie (That's the home version).
If music be the food of love  Are we stopping off for fish and chips at Wetherby or what? (The away version)

This time next year I hope Craig Hignett will be shouting  “We are the stuff that dreams are made of

...and finally one for our long lost friends, last seen in Bishop Auckland - Darlington A66  “True it is, we have seen better days.


In the culture section of the next Monkey Business we feature:

Emily Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights' in relation to to the peeling paintwork on top of the Mill House Stand.

Ritchie Humphreys gives a critique of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and their links to Peruvian poetry in the latter half of the 17th century.

Jamie Vardy discusses his new film 'I Was Albert Steptoe's Double'.

We investigate why the Mona Lisa does not have a “made in Italy” sign stamped right across her face so visitors to the Louvre museum in Paris are not under the impression that she is a French lass.

* All the words in italics, excluding Wallace and Gromit's, are either from the Bard's very own quill, or are how many people think he wrote them (rather than how he actually did!)
*A Magnum of bubbly
(exclusive to Aldi)


Help required.
Despite many hours of debate, the team at Monkey Mansions were unable to adapt Shakey's best-ever quotation “Get thee to a nunnery” to anything Pools-related (Jonathan Franks perhaps?)

A Magnum of bubbly* will be awarded to the reader with the best suggestion.

[While I may have lived in Shakespeareland for longer than the man himself did, this is nothing to do with me - Ed]


MERVYN THE MONKEY makes a revelation

Obviously we are unable to reveal our sources since we don't want to go into hiding like Julian Assange or Edward Snowden, but the following document has been brought to our attention, possibly by someone who wasn't invited.

Funny Old Game

Football Shorts

Some snippets from BILLY'S CONTRACT

I was amazed to see the following headline in the Hartlepool Mail earlier this week which read: Revealed! Hartlepool United fans to dress up as Storm troopers for Plymouth Argyle match.

I bet many readers, particularly Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel, sat up when they first read this. I was a bit disappointed when I realised that this year's fancy dress theme was to be based on Star Wars Stormtroopers as opposed to to any other particular stormtroopers.  Am I alone, the only person in Britain who has never seen Star Wars ...or Rocky ...or Back to the Future ...or Neighbours ...or East Enders, The X factor, or Britain's Got No Talent. (Life's too short!)  I once thought that I had seen the Wizard of Oz but that turned out to be Joel Porter and not the film.

My Uncle fought at El  Alamein during the second world war and I thought it would be a fitting tribute to him and his comrades in The Afrika Corps to wear his old Wehrmacht uniform down at Plymouth, until I discovered that the Mail were talking about a completely different set of Stormtroopers altogether.

Commendable as the intention is, I still cannot grasp why the club is renaming the Town End The Prostate Cancer End. Over time I can see other stands at the Vic following suit.

The Mill House Stand becoming the Mental Health Stand for obvious reasons.
The Cyril Knowles becoming Cardiac Arrest Stand for even more obvious reasons and the Rink End becoming The Ladies' Troubles  Area.

Already I am having visions of fans on stretchers and trolleys and saline drips as well as a four-hour wait trying to get into the ground ...which would only be ten minutes longer than it currently is for a big match.

Knowing Pools' luck, the One Life centre in the town will start re-directing patients to the Vic instead of North Tees Hospital.

Interesting to see that Stuart Parnaby is joining the back-room medical staff at the  Vic. I am not sure what his role will entail as the medical side of things seems to be well catered for. Perhaps due to his long history of injuries he could be employed as a patient or a wall chart to assist the medics diagnose what his injuries might be. Goodness knows he has had plenty of them.  

On match days he could perhaps assist the St. John Ambulance when they have to use the stretcher to carry an injured player from the pitch, however I could see him turning over on his ankle, straining his back or pulling a muscle as he carries out this task and ending up alongside the injured player on the stretcher himself.
A Tough Game

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic

Pools 0 Portsmouth 2 (League 2) Saturday April 30th 2016

A couple of former Pools loan players did for us today, with Burgess and Naismith probably the pick of the bunch in this end-of-season home game.

Featherstone, who was named man of the match, was superb. Billy was back but faded in the second half, but no disgrace to him as the visitors looked a tidy side. Dan Jones filled in for Carroll who was injured and he did a decent job.

A few people around me today were disappointed we did not turn them over in the second half after the first half was pretty even. Some good football from both sides but no real threat on either goal.

An early run and chip for the visitors found Smith clear in the box but his header was wide. Jackson had to make a clearing header to stop Naismith. Smith for the visitors broke into the box and evaded one tackle, went round Carson and stroked the ball towards the net and it hit the post, but he had been flagged offside anyway.

Carson made a double save to avoid going behind when he was hit in the midriff with a ball, and scrambled back to his feet as the rebound was blasted in, which he blocked and cleared.
"...the lack of a potent striker was obvious today"

After Thomas was dragged back in the box but the ref waved it on, and I heard him comment on the radio later that the ref told him that if he had gone down he would have awarded the penalty. In the second half however, when he dived in the box he could have been booked.

Pools piled on the pressure coming up to half time but the lack of a potent striker was obvious today.

The second half started in a similar vein with Luke, desperate for a goal, trying a long range shot which was easy work for the visiting keeper. Paynter probably had the best chance of the game but I put it down to not being match fit that he scooped it over the Town End.

Naismith was on hand when the ball dropped perfectly in the box for him to flick the ball past Carson, who had no chance of saving it. Pools went on the back foot for a while after the goal. Carson again had to be the man as he got down to a low shot to push it away.

Paynter went off for Oates, and probably only came on because it was the last home game, as he was not fit. Oates almost scored with his first touch as he raced into the box, but the keeper managed to block his shot. He followed up shortly afterwards with a header that was over the bar. He looks more of a threat down the middle than coming in from the wings.

Luke James got his feet in a tangle inside the six yard box. The ball just would not settle when he was on for a goal but he was overrun by defenders.

On a breakaway Pompey doubled their score just before the end of the game. It was a tough game but they edged it overall and looked a good side.

Rumours of a list of unwanted players was circulating the ground, with no real surprises. If it was true, Richards, Fenwick, Nelson-Addy, Oyenuga, Worley, and of course Bingham, along with a couple of youngsters will be leaving.

So, Stormtroopers, be ready for the long haul next week.

Red Kites, but no Points

Match report by ALREET at the Kassam Stadium

Oxford 2 Pools 0 (League 2) Saturday April 23rd 2016

I hadn’t been to Oxford for a match since United played at their old Manor Ground in Headington, way back in the day. 

This always struck me as a bit different from most grounds, being located in a tree-lined residential area. I had actually driven to that area once since but that was to see a rare American bird which had taken up residence in a chap’s back garden and he had cut up oranges and placed them in his trees for it to feed on.

Leaving Oxford station, it was handy to find that the local bus route 5 ran a very regular service to the ground so I jumped on, followed by a young girl carrying a lot of gear and a seat. She told a passenger that she was covering the match for a company in the Midlands. The bus passes the University College buildings before heading out through Cowley. Waiting at a set of traffic lights at The Original Swan on the quaintly named Between Towns Road, I spotted three Red Kites wheeling around the houses ahead of us before being mobbed by a Carrion Crow and drifting off.

The bus crossed the Southern Ring Road before the reporter jumped off so I followed her lead and did likewise. I knew that the ground was situated on the Blackbird Leys estate but there my knowledge ended, apart from it appearing regularly on the news several years ago due to it being an area where youngsters ‘misused’ cars and witnessed regular rioting.

Having alighted from the bus, I was looking around for the bus stop that would take me back to the station when a home fan asked if I was looking for the ground. This was fortunate as it is difficult to locate even though the stands are quite high but these only come into view at close range above the houses and there are no pylons these days to reveal its presence. He told me that he came from Bridlington while his father and a brother were Wendies fans, his other brother followed L***s but he had decided to follow Oxford. That said, he is very taken with Pools, saying how he thought the people were top notch. that he visited the Bowls Club and they couldn’t do enough for him and that we are the first fixture he looks for each season.

Thanking him for his time, I eventually found the ground which, having squeezed through a quite narrow barrier, lay down a path and over a stream across an open space. The ground itself is rather odd as it only has three sides, the fourth being an open end with a car park behind it.

Pools kicked off, playing towards the home end of the ground and a large crowd who had been wound up by their announcer. Not a good start by us as Featherstome gave the ball away but Woods and James put a good move together which only ended with a mis-hit effort that was easily cleared. Thomas, on twenty five yards, tried his luck but only found their keeper.

Bates was beaten for pace but the attacker who was through was pulled up by a late offside decision. A quick ball inside our left flank was played across goal but didn’t find an attacker to put a foot on it. The next ball from the Oxford right was played in from the edge of our area. It was collected on the left side of our box, passed inside where a quick shot rattled our bar. The rebound could have gone anywhere but landed right at the feet of Roofe who immediately drilled it home. An impressive reaction as the ball came back at a rate of knots, giving him little time to adjust his feet.

A long, crossfield ball found an attacker free on our right flank and he cut inside but curled his shot just past the far post. Thomas retaliated and a weaving run on our right ended with him hitting a low shot which the keeper held. Gray managed a shot but it didn’t threaten the home goal. Carson at the other end cleared the ball but it was low and picked up by the home side although Hawkins put in a strong tackle and cleared the danger.

Their number ten, Danny Hylton, was proving a handful and showing why Ronnie Moore was reported as trying to bring him to Pools. Oxford were attacking in numbers but were helped by the linesman in front of the Poolies who ignored three or four offside shouts in quick succession. When he eventually flagged, it was met by a very loud cheer.

A long ball out to their left was again allowed to stand and the resulting shot just passed our right post. Magnay lost the ball but redeemed himself and forced a rebound for a throw-in. Woods had a shot direct at the keeper before Featherstone and James combined to put a move together but the final ball ended up for a throw-in.

We again lost possession and their central attacker moved in from their left but fortunately hit a shot wide of the post. In keeping with his earlier decisions, their player clearly took the ball over our line but the linesman declined to give the goal kick. We won a free kick on the half-way line after good play between Hawkins and Woods was interrupted by a foul for which the offender received a yellow card. Woods collected a good ball wide on our left but his cross was knocked down to the keeper. Woods regained a lost ball and found Thomas who moved it on to Gray but, again, the ball was lost.
"You guys should be alright next year"

Oxford dribbled the ball into our six yard box but we managed to put it out for a throw-in. Bates picked up a booking and then there was panic in our defence but the ball was eventually cleared. Hawkins lost the ball but won it back and Woods put in a shot while he was falling but the keeper collected it easily.
Pools finished the half pretty much as they had played the rest of it by losing possession on the edge of their box.

Woods started the second half by creating a good chance from a cross. He then hit a shot wide before controlling the ball and running into trouble. Thomas lost possession and the ball ended up in our area where an attacker went down but pleas for a penalty were turned down and a corner awarded. For once, it was the home fans booing the ref’s decision.

Bates got in a good block on their scorer while two of our defenders went for the same ball and we were chasing shadows at this point. We lost the ball which was quickly picked up by the home attackers who galloped towards our goal with men over. Jackson, however, was up to the task and made a great tackle inside our area to save the situation.

Oxford fired off a shot on the turn and appealed for a penalty which was denied. Thomas, by now, had switched to the right but Oxford were turning the screw although we weathered the storm. Featherstone was left limping after a hard tackle and then Hawkins received a yellow card. Almost before the ref had time to return his pencil to his pocket, it had to come out again as Carroll entered the book for bringing down his man.

Pools went on a rare foray and Thomas went on a run and hit a great shot from distance which the keeper saved but spilled with none of our forwards anywhere close enough to capitalize. At the other end, Oxford got round the back of our defence and fired in a drive which Carson magnificently saved with his feet.

Oates came on for Gray and Thomas switched back to his original position on the right. From a Thomas free kick, Bates went close with a header that went over the far post. Oates hurt his left ankle after a challenge just inside their half which left him limping for a short while. Woods was replaced by Bingham and we won a corner which, I believe, was our first of the afternoon. The corner was taken by Oates whose cross was met by Bates only for his header to be cleared off the line by Sercombe, their attacker who had earlier hit our bar in the lead up to their first goal.

James went off to be replaced by Duckworth for the last few minutes. Following sustained Pools pressure, the ball was switched to the opposite end and a square pass played to the edge of our box where a side foot volley was kept out by another fine save from Carson. With three minutes of added time played, we lost the ball on the edge of our box and Sercombe burst past Jackson to plant the ball firmly beyond Carson for the clinching goal.

Two nil, on chances created, was probably a fair result. Pools, overall, defended quite well and the midfield did a decent job but we were lacking where it mattered, up front. Paynter’s absence is shown in our play with no one able to fill his role of keeping the ball and laying it off to others. Woods and, later, Bingham both bring energy and pace up front but do not hold up play. Carson made some excellent saves but we continually lost possession and Oxford hit us on the break, passing inside our defenders and attacking with three or four players running at speed.

We seemed to lose the snap of recent performances, sat too deep and turned into trouble with Oxford picking up most of the loose balls. That said, we only played for the last twenty minutes and in that spell, we kept the home team on the defence and created decent chances. It was a disappointing performance and result against a good side when, on another day, we may well have matched them and got something from the game.

At the final whistle, I made my way back to the bus stop to find a queue of around eighty or ninety people snaking their way around a corner to board three waiting buses. On reaching the station and exchanging views with a couple of Poolie mates, I boarded my train and waited for the off to Paddington.

Glancing out of the window, I thought I spotted Carroll in a light blue Pools zip-up jacket trundling his gear along the platform. I didn’t notice him at Paddington and, of course, he could have departed at an earlier station but then it dawned on me that he probably didn’t get on the train in the first place and had travelled in the opposite direction.

Walking towards the Circle line, I passed a similarly attired lad (but dark blue top) in the ticket hall. Getting up to leave the train at Baker Street, I spotted him sitting on my train and it was none other than Rakish. Probably the only time I’ll ever see a Pools player on the London Underground! He seems a very pleasant lad and asked if I had been at the match and we had a quick chat. He said that he lives in East London and I obviously would have liked to have had a bit longer with him. He did say, “You guys should be alright next year” as I left. Now, if I had made that comment, I would have used the word, “We” or am I reading something into it that wasn’t intended?

Funny Old Game

A Poor Show

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic

Pools 1 Accrington Stanley 2 (League 2) Tuesday April 19th 2016

Promotion candidates came to town tonight and it looked as if we had surrendered before the game started. 

If I was manager of one of the other top contenders I would be asking the question as to why we had to make five changes for the game tonight, but I suppose it is the manager’s prerogative to change his side.

We look to be safe now after a decent run and he could be looking at fringe players in order to assess them for next term. It did not look good changing half the side like we did. Richards, Laurent, Walker, Bingham and Gray all came into the side.

Walker only lasted till half time so I would imagine it was his last hurrah before he goes to pastures new. The lad has gone backwards since the Wolves interest - that could be deliberate on his own part, but it is a shame to see such a promising player look out of his depth in games. Richards is a little erratic in his form, and Bingham struggles to hold the ball up. Laurent looks a tidy player but is not match fit. And both Gray and James will be moving on. Which makes me wonder what tonight’s exercise was all about.
"Cross? Most of the Town End were a bit more than cross."

As you all know, I never criticise officials but Steve Martin (remember him from the Rowan and Martin Laugh In?), well, I never rated him as a comedian and in his new career with the whistle he is a better comedian than a ref. This man was the pits. Not just the worst this season but also the worst in a long time. This feller did not waste time judging fifty-fifty balls, he never even judged sixty-forty, he just gave every decision to the visitors. The Accy captain was in his ear all night and it looked as if he was guiding the ref through his decisions and was given everything he asked for.

OK, I know it feels like that at some games but when you get one in five you get a bit peeved, but then when you get the one in five and you are instantly pulled up for an infringement once the kick is taken, you do get a bit cross. Cross? Most of the Town End were a bit more than cross. When we did get the one in five there were jeers of derision from the home fans, but this type of official thrives on that.

As the game started we had an early chance when Gray broke clear up the field but his effort was blocked. In their first attack the visitors went one up from a well-worked short corner, which ended with a chip over Carson. Not a good start.

Throughout the game Buxton for the visitors ran the show, playing some good balls up for Billy Kee who had a shoot-on-sight policy. Buxton was forever going to ground and getting the decisions from the comedian Martin. Kicking to the Rink End there were twenty-four minutes on the clock when we won our first corner. Bingham on the edge of the box headed Richards' cross back across the goal, making it one-all.

Thomas made a couple of decent runs but the visitors had done their homework and he was limited to long range shots, and if he did get near the box he was hammered.

Accrington's second goal came after Carson palmed a low shot away that hit the bottom of the post and fell for the unmarked striker who just slid it home.

The second half saw Featherstone come on for Walker and he made a big difference, holding the ball up and at least attempting to push the lads forward. We managed to win our second free kick of the game in what you might call a decent position, but it ended with a weak shot by Laurent from the edge of the box.

Most of the game we were backed into our own half and the sloppy distribution kept us there. Jackson made a run on goal but his effort was cleared and at the other end Carson made a great save from from five yards out. Jackson and a striker went up for the same ball in our box and both needed treatment but by the time the stretcher was found they had both recovered.

We were given a late chance after Martin gave us another free kick on the edge of the box, All hands on deck as the ball was sent in and Thomas, Woods and James all had shots before Martin gave Accrington a free kick to ease the pressure after Luke was flattened. Once away from their box, the ref blew for full time.

A poor show for the second last home game and a lot of fans complained about the selection and the poor display. Take nothing from Accrington, they play to their strengths and they did a job on us as they did last season. They played the better football, but not sure if they are good enough to go up.
Things Look Rosy

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic

Pools 2 York 1 (League 2) Saturday April 16th 2016

Three changes to the side today as Thomas returned alongside Carroll and Bates. 

The ref, Mr. Les Stockbridge, according to the Ditchburn Poolie, was a colourful character, having issued ninety-one yellow and four red cards in twenty-seven games this season. He had taken this pairing before when we won and also a Pools-Oxford game when we had lost, so odds on for a win today.

It was a good start to the game from Pools after once again losing the toss and kicking down the bank in the first half, which was obviously the Flinders influence. An early slip in the goalmouth by Carson, who had fallen on his arris when retrieving a ball, could have been costly with a York man bearing down on him.

A lot of the players were sliding around but it had been raining more on than off for the last thirty-six hours and was still raining. An early run down the wing by Thomas found Luke in the box but his effort went over the bar. Thomas again made a great run in but his shot was poor. The same pair linked again but this time Luke scuffed his shot and it was wide of the post. The link play between the two was excellent today and hopefully will produce the goals for Luke before he returns to his club; the lad's work rate is phenomenal.
"Even the ref apologised when he booked him but rules are rules."

In another Pools attack on goal the huge centre half was skinned by Luke but he grabbed Luke round the face with both hands and dropped him to the turf right on the edge of their box. I think if the ref had been closer or the lino was on this side then he would have gone as he was the last man and he literally assaulted Luke. The yellow card was produced and Luke needed attention; while he was off the pitch the free kick was wasted. I am of the opinion that this rule should be changed and the aggressor in such cases should go off for the same length of time it takes the injured player to recover. I doubt that will ever happen, but it would be a fairer system.

The game was going well for Pools, always threatening up front and the defence holding York at bay on the edge of our box. Just on the half hour the big centre half, who was far too aggressive, took out Thomas after he had skinned him and Mr. Stockbridge, true to form, produced the red card. Thomas at times looked to be a bit off colour and not his normally bouncy self, but the lad kept going and hit a great goal as the ball from a corner dropped perfectly and he belted it past Flinders. I was critical of him for taking his shirt off to celebrate his goal and taking an unnecessary booking until later I found out that the reason he missed the last game was the death of his grandfather, and the message under his shirt was RIP CLIFF. Even the ref apologised when he booked him but rules are rules.

Just before the break Ducky brought a good save out of Ned with a long-range shot. Flinders' kicking from hands has not improved since he went to York but he managed to keep one in and York made the most of it - as the Pools players were already thinking of half time cocoa they let York in for a easy header across the goal and past Carson. One all at the break.

Early in the second half, playing against ten men, it became a bit pedestrian as York tried to make a game of it. Thomas was given a slap in a tackle and had to be treated for a bloody nose. York were having a little more success and claiming more of the ball and tested Carson a couple of times but he was equal to it.

Woods settled the side with a neat header which Flinders was nowhere near. He came close soon after with a mazy dribble into the box and a rasping shot that Flinders managed to palm over the bar. Ducky was unlucky with a double blast at Flinders who denied him a goal with a couple of good saves.

The game was petering out after a succession of substitutions from both sides and Hignett introduced a very young Jack Bamford, given a run out after signing pro forms today. I have not seen the lad play but remember his elder brother Billy being on the books not too long ago.

So another win and things looking rosy as we hopefully plan for next season with the news that Carson has signed an extension to his contract. Man-of-the-Match was Woods, who deserved it, but both Luke and Thomas deserve a big medal for the work they do and the battering they take.
Funny Old Game