Pools Are Motoring


Solihull Moors 1, Pools 2 (National League)
Saturday October 7th 2017
Damson Park

Well before Pools 'went non-league', I'd usually have a good trawl through all the football results in the Sunday papers including those from the National League to see how our old adversaries Wrexham, Torquay, Lincoln and the like were getting on ...or coping. For some reason whenever I saw the name Solihull Moors in print, through being 50% dyslexic and 50% just plain thick, I always read their name as Solihull Motors. Happened all the time. 

It could be that I thought that Solihull, being on the outskirts of Coventry, had some connection with the once mighty BMC (British Motor Corporation), which later became British Leyland, manufacturers of the Austin Allegro, the Marina, the Maxi and the Morris Ital ...types of cars that Germans could not (ever) build.
Once I saw this season's fixture list, I decided that Solihull would be one of my nailed-on away jaunts, if for nothing else as some form of exorcism to eradicate the word 'Motors' whenever I saw it in its written form.

Literally at the last moment I nearly had a change of mind about making the journey - well, who wouldn't after watching the Pools v Barrow game. Yes, we picked up the three points, how I don't know, but it was as dreadful a turgid display as you could (not) wish to see. The only reason I did decide to motor down to the Motors - sorry the Moors, was that I had previously arranged with my mate from Bristol to use the fixture as an excuse to meet up as we had not seen each other for the best part of 8/9 years.

From here on I will refer to my former County Durham friend as Mr. T. Like algebra, the Midlands, apart from Coventry, is a bit of a mystery to me. Coventry on the other hand, which I am familiar with, is a lot of a mystery to me. So with that in mind I made straight for the ground,  which is sandwiched in between the massive Jaguar Land Rover factory on one side and the control tower at one end of the runway at Birmingham Airport, which until very recently I thought was East Midlands airport. I did say earlier that the Midlands was a mystery to me.

A bit of useless information: according to my satnav, Solihull, give or take a few miles, is almost equi-distant from Hartlepool and Torquay. That is perhaps why they are in the Midlands.

Got to the ground in good time and very soon met up with Mr. T from Bristol and minutes later Mr. L and friends from Stratford on Avon but sadly never got the chance to say hello to Mr.J. from Nottingham who was also in attendance. (Sounds like Characters from the film Pulp Fiction. sorry I meant Pools Fiction).

Solihull's ground occupies a very large site; indeed the car park, out of season could be used as an additional income stream for the club as an overflow parking area for the airport*. The ground itself is not bad at all, with the exception of two stands of scaffolding construction, one with a tarpaulin over the top of it to protect those sat in (the middle of) it from the elements and the other one without the luxury of the tarpaulin in the away section. Guess where we were sat when it rained!

Like most non-league outfits the staff could not be more friendlier if they tried. After a quick pint in their impressive club house we took our place midway up the scaffolding, much like that famous 1930's picture of the group of New York workmen sat on a girder 40 storeys up, having their bait and tabs.

Mr T who in his youth had played football at a decent level had been 'cramming up' on Pools beforehand by reading match reports as well as watching TV clips etc, He grilled me about Pools, their players and formations etc. To which I replied that a good number of first team choices were out injured, Our most creative player is on the bench (Jack Munns) and we don't have a properly functioning midfield. On the plus side we generally play poorly but of late we get a result of sorts and this was, as it turned out pretty, much the order of the day.

Pre-match Mr. T was keen to see Rodney and Franks play and wondered if Harrison and Laing were as bad in the flesh as he had heard. His jury was surprisingly out on Loach as he seemed to think he has a tendency to palm a few of his shot stops back into play. On the other hand he is not totally convinced about the appointment of Craig Harrison.

The first half proved to be a dud - a dour midfield struggle with the odd breakaway from both sides. The best Pools could muster were three really good crosses into the box. Two of them wasted as none of Harrison's so call three up front were anywhere near up front and the one cross that did eventually reach a Pools forward resulted in a shot that was so tame it could have been classed as a gentle back pass to the keeper.

This sadly was Pools only real attempt on goal in 45 minutes of play. With the referee about to blow, Scott Loach pulled off his customary reflex save and kept Pools in the game by tipping the ball over the bar. Seconds after the half time whistle went Mr. L informed us that Jack Munns was coming on for Lewis Hawkins. I think that Mr. L had heard this before Hawkins had been informed that he was going to be subbed. He also told us that Oates was coming on for Thorne which was not a surprise and if the lad was honest it should not have come as a surprise to him either.

I momentarily reflected on who was actually running the side, Mr. L or Craig Harrison. During the halt time interval Mr. T pointed out that one of Solihull's subs, who was warming up, was Richard Brodie, ex-York and Gateshead, along with a good few others under his belt. Mr.T. said that Pools would need to watch him if he came on as he was a ne'er do well, or much stronger words to that effect.

During the interval Solihull paraded about 250 kids around the ground, all in Solihull shirts. Here's me thinking that they had a record crowd because Pools were in town, but it would have been boosted massively by the parents and families who came to see all of these youngsters. I later read that The Moors have over 30 teams in various Saturday/Sunday/youth and junior leagues. This is a credit to them particularly when one considers how many big clubs are on their doorstep. Pools should certainly look at taking a leaf or two from their book.
"Brodie went to ground, as someone behind me said 'Like a soft tart.' "

No sooner had the second half started than Pools scored a really well worked goal with their first bit of fluent football in the match so far. I'll use the You Tube highlights to describe the goal as I was still queueing for my Bovril when the goal was scored. Some lovely interpassing of the triangular nature between Munns Deverdics and Woods sent Jonathan Franks down the wing, who initially beat his man and the ball looked as if it was going roll out for a goal kick. And the Jonathan Franks of old kicked in and he stopped running after ball. The ball then seemed to stick on the line and the new, supercharged Jonathan Franks of 2017 kicked in and much like Luke James, the patron saint of lost causes, chased after the ball, won it off the full back who was trying to shield it, then went past another defender and passed to Munns, who squared to Oates to slot home.

After that Pools were in the driving seat, or as John Motson would say The acendancy, and were only occasionally troubled by The Moors with the odd tame shot which was bread and butter to Loach. That changed in the 89th minute when a innocuous cross came into the Pools box and Louis Laing went up with Brodie, who had come on as a sub and with little or no contact, living up to his moniker, the ne'er do well Brodie went to ground, as someone behind me said 'Like a soft tart.' Mr. T was not impressed and said it was one of the softest penalty decisions that he had seen in a long while. At the same time his ire was rising even more because it was Brodie who had come on, done his job and conned the ref. Some would call him a seasoned professional who has been around the block. I'd call him something else. A cheat.

Penalty converted, the Solihull skipper sending Loach the wrong way. Not that I saw much of the penalty in full as, like the others who had deserted the uncovered scaffold seeking shelter from the rain, we had moved to the covered end behind the goal.  Due to the numbers in this cramped stand it was difficult to see Loach, only the penalty taker. So grateful thanks once again to You Tube, which enabled me to see the spot kick in full in the comfort of my own home. 

With a long drive ahead of me back home and seconds remaining on the clock I made a dash to the gentlemen's facilities near the half way line. I had done what I had to do just as Jack Munns' free kick got headed on, the ball went across the face of the goal and I heard the roar in the away end as Pools snatched what proved to be the winner. When I returned to my spot on the terrace Mr. T. asked who scored goal and I told him I could not rightly say as a portly chap in front of the dug outs moved to the right and blocked my line of vision. The portly chap was none other than Craig Harrison.

Summary; Once again Pools made hard work of beating a team in the bottom half of the division and like other games seemed to show their opponents too much respect instead of swiftly putting them to the sword. In the plus column Harrison must have finally grasped that Lewis Hawkins, who should have been dropped long ago, is not cutting the mustard and Munns, who drove the midfield forward once he came on, should be an automatic first choice selection.

Munns, along with many on the day did not play well against Fylde and was consigned to the subs bench for several games. Hawkins who has played poorly for most of the season was selected week in and week out made me think it was a case of players' faces fitting or not fitting with the manager as the case me be.

With luck Craig Harrison will break the existing midfield up (keeping Woods as a sub), as that got us into the National League in the first place. Scotty Harrison probably had his best game to date whilst Louis Laing is still not firing on all cylinders. Basically if we play the way we did against Solihull I can see South Shields dumping us out of the FA Cup as Pools have no answer to teams that come out of the traps running and who have pace.

Mr.T's summing up of the match: Far from being a great performance, or A match Pools deserved to win. However he sees Louis Laing as the weak link, who does not seem to know how to kick a ball properly and gets caught out. Like me he thought James Thorne looked out of his depth. Funnily enough there was no mention of the mid field but as I said to him afterwards we don't really possess one. In the plus box Mr. T. thought Jonathan Franks the pick of the bunch, a footballer. He also liked the cut of Deverdics' Munns' and Magnay's jibs and thinks, as many Poolies do, that there is a footballer in Rodney somewhere, and that Scott Harrison put in a reasonable performance.

Mr. T. was taken aback to hear the away support starting to get on the team's backs when things were not going Pools' way, which he thought unusual for Hartlepool fans, who normally give there all, particularly when things are not going all their own way. I told him if he had seen what we have had to put up with these last few years they are lucky to have to have any support at all.

He is still unsure about Craig Harrison and his tactics. Mr. T reckons at the end of the season Pools will be up there but sees Dagenham as the team that will be collecting the silverware at the season's end. Like me he also agrees that the grey shirts are awful.

Oh, did I forget to mentioned that Mr.T is a life-long Darlington fan?

The drive home was a bit of a nightmare as my left eye was playing up. It is little wonder I missed all the goals. Here's me blaming Pools' grey shirts when it turned out I had conjuctivitis which, as I write this, has transferred over to my right eye!