Sam Delivers the Goods

Report by RUNNING MONKEY at the ex-Vic

Pools 2 Stevenage 0 (League 2) Saturday January 21st 2017

Sam Collins was taking charge of the team again today as we took on Stevenage, somewhat of a bogey team to Pools, who have never beaten them since they came into the league, and prior to today had only managed three draws from their seven games. 

Brad Walker was given a start and Rhys Oates had the job of running the line up front with Alessandra, due to Paynter being injured. It was Oates who had the first real chance after a link up between Walker and Woods who laid a ball up for Oates running in but the ball was cleared.

Stevenage's first chance was a blast over Morrison’s from just inside our half but they looked a decent side passing the ball and moving up in numbers but the strong Pools midfield held their ground and gave little away to the visitors. The lads had been using a different approach in their warm up and were seen passing the ball and laying off chances prior to the game, which was a different approach than normal. I watched Bates carefully take down a cross and instead of pushing it back to the keeper or turning on it and losing possession he carried the ball back to them and even though he was blocked eventually it was better than lumping the ball up all the time.

Pools settled early and started to play some excellent football. Oates, who was leading the attack, had a low shot stopped by the keeper. Donnelly also had a long drive that had the goalkeeper scrambling across his goal to smother the ball. Donnelly again was sending some great balls in from the wing, which was unsettling the visitors.

A long ball out found the Stevenage winger tearing down the Millhouse side, which was wide open but his cross was dismal and the Stevenage striker was in a fit of rage as he screamed at the winger as his delivery was not good enough.
"It was pleasing to see this type of performance that lasts the whole game rather than the fleeting glimpses we have seen of late"

Hawkins, another vastly improved player at Pools, has some good control and can take on defenders. He won the ball down the right and his cross into the box was handled by a Stevenage player and Mackem ref Mr Webb blew for a penalty.

Now this act of kindness brought a wry smile to the face of the Ditchburn Poolie who is full of statistics about such things and commented that he owes us this as three times he has taken charge of matches at the Vic and we have lost all three.

In the absence of Mr Paynter, Oates took the penalty and it went straight back to the keeper who cleared the ball. This action was upsetting to a few people around me who claimed we never score from penalties. The fact is it looks as if Paynter is the only squad member who can take and score a penalty.

Late in the half Featherstone, who I thought had his best game for Pools today, found himself free in the box and it took two shots to beat the keeper to put Pools one up, which was a great response by the team after just missing a penalty.

As half time was approaching Pools went two up with a shot that beat the diving keeper from Walker after a great ball in from Oates. Pools thoroughly deserved this lead and for once looked very comfortable on the ball, with players backing each other up and making a lot of space as the visitors chased their shadows. It really was that good.

Once again we all thought the half time cuppa was again going to play its part as Pools for some reason went on their back foot for a good spell early in the half. Stevenage were making the chances now but apart from hitting the bar and skimming a few balls across the box their luck was out and Pools gradually got themselves back into the game, playing the way they had in the first half.

It was pleasing to see this type of performance that lasts the whole game rather than the fleeting glimpses we have seen of late. The visitors, looking like a beaten side, had resorted to more physical challenges and Hawkins and Thomas, when he came on, got some stick. Once again Mr Webb upset the Ditchburn when he booked Oates for an incident he did not even see, reacting to calls from the visitors that he had blocked the kick of the goal keeper when he was never that close to him. The keeper just kicked the ball out and Oates just stuck out a foot and blocked it.

There is no underestimating the performance of Pools today. Just maybe some of them were just trying to impress the new boss before he starts in the job on Monday. That could well be because, if you believe some of the rumours, that there is going to be a clear out. If that is the case then Mr Jones had better get a move on.

As a team Pools played some great football. Individually Harrison and Featherstone were the pick of the bunch, along with Donnelly and Woods. It does sound as if I am going to name the whole team but for my money Rhys Oates was the star man today.

The other matter on the talk vine was the interest being shown in Featherstone who is being pursued by Doncaster and Bradford, It would be such a shame as the lad has really come into his own in recent weeks.