Showing posts from April, 2018

Let's Assume...


Assuming the proposed Raj Singh takeover takes place and assuming that Pools are not relegated. what happens next? 

Priority must be given to restructuring the club at every level from top to bottom to make it a successful business. On top of that there must be transparency and scrutiny on all income revenue and expenditure, and if in some cases it means cutting the cloth to fit the suit, let's get cutting.

Should the club go semi-professional until Football League status is regained? A difficult question. Eddie Kyle has gone on record as saying that he has seen numerous non-league part-time players who could walk into Pools' team and do a better job than those currently in the first eleven.

The problem with part-time players is their availability because of their work commitments. Many part-timers enjoy very good incomes as well as job security through their work and would be loath to sign full-time professional terms in case they were later discarded as the club moved up the leagues or they lost their job through injury. For most of these players the income they earn is, as we used to say in the old days, just 'pin money'. Other part-timers who might be on a lower earning scale could see it as a means of topping up their income but on the other hand could be afraid to ask their employers for time off or an early finish to get to matches, or indeed training. Certain occupations could not accommodate employees who had time off for football such as those who work for the 999 services or those involved in shift work.

It must also be difficult for employers themselves, seeing their footballing employees not turning in for work due to some injury sustained on a Saturday afternoon and thus losing their company valuable man hours. A company I once worked for had an excellent non-league footballer on their books and in the end he was given an ultimatum: football or work. He never kicked a football in anger again.

So with some exceptions going down the semi-pro route is not without its difficulties. It is a hard call. On the other hand if  Pools did have the misfortune of dropping into the National League North there would be no other option other than the semi-professional/part-time route. Hopefully it does not come to that.

Dependent on the length of players' contracts offered under Craig Harrison's regime I can't see many of the current squad being with us next season ...and deservedly so.

My retained list would comprise of:
Scott Loach: On the proviso that he promises to dominate his box and hold shots instead of parrying them.
Kenton Richardson: A footballer in the making who I think would make a better midfielder than a full back.
Josh Hawkes: Should have been introduced to the team before Bates took over. Great maturity for a young lad.
Devante Rodney: Still only a kid, but with the right coaching I think he could go far.
Louis Laing; Stop laughing. If he could iron out his Laurel and Hardy moments he could be another who could surprise us all. Looks classy on the ball, particularly when moving forward. His best games are when he is not partnered with Scott Harrison and vice versa.
Michael Woods: Again, another who has improved under Matthew Bates, playing further forward, resulting in him becoming the club's leading goalscorer.
Blair Adams: Hmmmm. I don't know. I think I would keep him as long as he stayed clear of the left-back position. I'd probably hang on to him as a wide man.
Jack Munns: Don't think we saw the best of him through injury.
Mr Marmite, alias Nicky Featherstone: Looks a tidy footballer but not my cup of tea. At times needlessly slows the game down even when we are chasing a draw, let alone a win. Probably would be better suited to a team with a different style of play such as Man City/Barcelona. When the vultures were circling round Pools ahead of their financial crisis and picking players off one by one, his name was linked with Swindon. I'd only keep him as an asset to sell on.

As for the other players not named, they are either too injury prone or just not good enough, so cheerio, bye now.
"I am unsure if I would like to see Craig Hignett back in the managerial hotseat at Pools as his record was not much better than that of his predecessor"

What then of the Manager? Personally I believe, despite the Guiseley result (when Pools morphed into Craig Harrison mode), that Matthew Bates should be given the role of manager, perhaps on a rolling contract. The elephant in the room however, is the spectre of Craig Hignett, who has been lurking in the shadows for a while.

Most managers who have left Pools in recent times they have failed to be re-employed elsewhere as managers. (What chance has Craig Harrison got?) Hignett is no exception, recently failing to get the vacant manager's job at Gateshead.

It appears that he is close to Raj Singh and he has been touted as likely to be appointed as Director of Football should Singh purchase the club. How he can take that role is beyond me as he has only had a year's management experience under his belt. To quote Arsène Wenger. "What is a Director of Football?" At this level why do we require a Director of Football?

The other thing that sits uncomfortably with me is that when Craig Hignett was manager of Pools he rightly complained that players were not only being shipped out without his knowledge, but others were being brought in behind his back. Hignett is on record as saying that one particular player who was foisted upon him would never play for him as long as he was manager at Pools, as he was not the type of that was needed at the club at that time. That player is now a regular in the first team.

I can understand Hignett's frustration. When Alan Pardew was manager of West Ham he had Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano 'foisted' upon him and was not best pleased, not because he had two world-class players dumped into his struggling squad but because he felt undermined, having had no involvement in their arrival. Mascherano hardly got a game under Pardew, probably kept out of the side by the scintillating skills of the then Hammers midfielder Nigel Reo Coker, who has just recently signed for MK Dons after being unattached for most of the season!

The Mail reported that it was hoped that the sale of the club would be completed before the 5pm transfer deadline closed, as the prospective buyers had two players lined up to sign for the club. I scratched my head when I read this and the old saying of the kettle calling the pot black sprang to mind. Did Matthew Bates have any prior knowledge of who these players might be? Did he want them? Did he have any say on who he wanted? Or were they being foisted on Bates à la Hignett by Hignett himself, as surely Jeff Stelling or Raj Singh would not have been responsible for choosing the new blood. (Presumably the players in question would have had some form of Borer connection).

It could be a case of giving Bates the manager's job full-time and if that does not work out Hignett would step into the role and the title of Director of Football would then become redundant.

I am unsure if I would like to see Craig Hignett back in the managerial hotseat at Pools as his record was not much better than that of his predecessor Colin Cooper, plus we got a few good thrashings along the way (Stevenage six-nil) and saw some exceedingly dull football, and that with better players than we have now. My jury is out on that one, however if I was a betting man I would put my money on him becoming HUFC manager sooner rather than later.

My view is if Bates does get the manager's post he should insist at the very beginning on being left alone to get on with the job without any outside or internal interference. However, whichever way one looks at it, having Hignett in the backround could undermine Bates' authority. I do sincerely hope that that is not the case. The club must come first ahead of any individual's ego.

Funny Old Game

Worth Waiting for...


Hopefully by the time this article goes live online the protracted Pools takeover will be complete and we will have better times to look forward to. Things can hardly get any worse on and off the pitch with the fans paying the tax bill and more and the council paying the wages. 

What a state to get into and alleged chartered accountants steering the ship and getting money from anyone who will give the club some. How they look at themselves in the mirror I do not know. It is to be hoped the new owners sweep away all the dross who have been infesting the club over the past few years and have a business plan that will work and keep us off the bones of our arse.

On the field after a couple of decent results against albeit mediocre opposition we were humped by the mighty Guiseley on our own ground which has to be one of our worst league results of all time. Caretaker manager Matthew Bates explained this result away as the players were a bit tired and jaded with two games in a week. This is a squad of full-time players playing against part-timers and the lazy gets were struggling. If they can't manage a couple of games then bring in some of the youth team as they can hardly be any worse than the current incumbents.
"...we were humped by the mighty Guiseley on our own ground which has to be one of our worst league results of all time"

With this result having put paid to Bates's chances of getting the manager's job on a permanent basis it is surprising he was so cool about it. Having said that, the guy has all the charisma of a traffic cone. It would be nice if Pam Duxbury could explain to the fans the current coaching situation at the club. After all, she is keen enough to take the cash from the supporters.

We must presume Paul Jenkins and Bernard Hermer have left the club. The last we were told was one had some private business to do and the other one needed a break. Surely we are not still paying them? And the two coaches Bates brought in, allegedly doing the jobs for free, are they being paid? And what of Ian McGuckin and Antony Sweeney in charge of the youth but allegedly unwilling to step up and help Bates in his hour of need?

I think Monday's defeat proved once and for all how weak this set of players is. If it was up to me my retained list would be Scott Loach, Liam Donnelly, Josh Hawkes and Devante Rodney and let the rest of them find their level at Southport, Spennymoor, darLOW and stacking shelves in a supermarket. It would be nice to think Lee Clark and Joe Allon were still interested in taking charge which would give us some passion and experience and some good contacts in the game.

Let's hope Raj Singh and his consortium can come up with some ideas to bring the good times back to Victoria Park. We deserve some after the way the last three owners have treated the club and I include Ken Hodcroft in this for his folly in selling to TMH and not learning by his mistake and selling to Coxhead and Co as his coup de grace.

If Mr Singh and his consortium can do half as good as Harold Hornsey and Bo Larsson did for the club we should be in safe hands.

Much Better - but Still Nervous Moments!

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

As Easter Monday dawned, there was optimism in the air. Three wins on the trot and a home game against the bottom of the League. What more could we ask for? 

Yet, at the end of the game there was the sinking feeling that we’d shot ourselves in the foot - again. Messing things up in added time (whatever half) seems to be a thing that Pools are getting adept at.

Take the Bromley game. We’d played them off the park and should have been more than 1-0 up as the interval approached. Yet, what happened? Bromley squeezed in an equaliser in the minute of added time. Fortunately, Michael Woods put us 2-1 up but as Bromley got a corner in added time of the second half, I just daren’t look. Luckily, we cleared any danger. The only problem must be concentration – are the players more concerned about their half time/full time tea than repelling danger? Worth a thought.

Incidentally, I admired the 20 hardy souls who came up to support Bromley. It was a hell of a way to travel on a Tuesday night and the applause which they got from Poolies was richly deserved. Some question whether we should be generous to away fans but we all follow the same game and have similar feelings towards our teams. I was quite happy to join in the applause – bless 'em.
"Messing things up in added time (whatever half) seems to be a thing that Pools are getting adept at."

Everyone’s wondering what the hell is happening to the take over. I keep looking at the Hartlepool Mail website and, despite optimistic noises, nothing seems to be signed, sealed and delivered. If its the National League, then watch out – you’ll be crucified on Soccer Saturday!

If Raj Singh does eventually take over the club there are two immediate areas that he needs to look at.

The first is payments to agents. Under Uncle Ken, Pools refused to pay agents; if players wanted to use agents then they paid them for services rendered and not Pools. How things have changed! Recent figures reveal that from 1st February 2017 to 31st January 2018, Pools paid out £18, 849 to agents; Leyton Orient’s return was over double that at £39, 537. This kind of expenditure by both clubs certainly hasn’t improved on-field performances of either club.

The second one is that Raj Singh should not, under any circumstances, treat the players to curry takeaways after a win *. Did you see where the owner of Accrington Stanley has been asked to explain himself by the Football League because he treats his players to a McDonald’s after a win. Why? Because the McDonald’s is not specified in the players’ contacts! You couldn’t make these things up could you? As the owner, Andy Holt, said, “I reserve the right to buy anyone a burger with my own money”. He added, “ You have to wonder what these folk would do with their lives if it wasn’t for my errors of judgement!!"

One more month to go – don’t bite the nails down too far!!!

* Sherlock will be disappointed! Ed.



Harold Wilson is credited with saying "A week is a long time in politics". If that is the case then a month must be a lifetime in football and in particular to Hartlepool United.

At the time of typing this I reckon that only God and Stephen Hawking know how the club is still in existence, particularly with all the black holes the club's finances seemed to have disappeared into. To date the club has not been sold but discussions are ongoing and ongoing as well as ongoing*, making the Brexit negotiations look like a piece of cake ...or a morceau de gâteau for the benefit of our French readers.

Prior to the Guiseley game on the field of play we saw a transformed, nay, resurrected Pools win three matches on the bounce in addition to drawing two, which suggests that we are at long last making headway out of the woods. And talking of Woods, it has got to to be said that Michael Woods' goals have been a major factor in making Pools the in-form team of the moment. Noticeably his best form and goals scored tend to be away from the Vic.

It is a great shame that had Pools not had this rich vein of form at the beginning of the season, and allowing for the odd hiccup along the way, perhaps, not unlike Manchester City, we could have had the league title tucked away in the previously-unused trophy cabinet at the Vic well before Easter. Ever the optimist!

"I reckon that only God and Stephen Hawking know how the club is still in existence"

In addition to positive results, the style of football implemented under Matthew Bates has changed for the better. There seems to be more tempo and spirit as well as the all important 'fight' within the squad that has previously been sadly lacking. The players have been given more freedom to express themselves, more so the front runners. The midfielders, with one glaring exception, are now moving in a more forward manner rather than in a sideways direction allowing the likes of Woods and Newton scoring opportunities.

Another positive, whether it is a confidence thing or because of the introduction of a new manager, is that a goodly number of players have seemed to turn over a new leaf and come out of their shells. It is as if they are trying to show the Poolie faithful that they are not the muffins that we all believed they were. Blair Adams,  Rodders, Louis Laing** and Conor Newton have had some outstanding games of late. One wonders how Craig Harrison got it so badly wrong with this same squad of players.

Despite Pools' perilous league placing it is a credit to Matthew Bates that he is not afraid to give youth a chance and has in turn handed debuts to Jacob Owen and Josh Hawkes, the latter of whom paid him back handsomely with a cracking goal against Bromley as well as several outstanding displays in midfield which belied his years.

To cap all this off, not only have we had the added bonus of seeing Pools play a more entertaining brand of football which is actually enjoyable to watch*** but Pools have also added some steel to their game that is something they have sadly been lacking. More of the same please.

* This was written before the game against Guiseley
** This was written before the game against Guiseley
*** This was written before the game against Guiseley

Jon Goes to the Greengrocer's

Another Janice and Jon story by SHEDRICK

Janice was worried that Jon wasn’t getting his five a day. 

“You only have to look at how sluggish the Pools players are to see that they are eating food with too many carbohydrates and fats. It is a hereditary problem with Northern folk who have to eat comfort food to keep warm. You only have to look at the long queue every morning waiting for Greggs to open. 

She gave Jon a list and sent him to the new health-food shop, known down south as a “Greengrocer's”. John skipped passed his mates who were sitting on the kerb seeing who could spit the furthest, and as he went into the shop he laughed at their good-natured banter about pansies and rabbit food. 

John said good morning to the shop assistant Mrs Plum, who had recently retrained after being made redundant as a welder at the local steel fabrication works. Witness the neat 'hospital corners' on the Angel of the North. 

Jon picked up a banana and tried to peel it from the wrong end. “Not like that” said Mrs Plum, “Hold it like this. Now let me show you how”. 

Jon held it as she pulled down the peel. He also wanted some melons and gave them a prod with his finger. Mrs Plum told him he might bruise them and showed him how to tell if they were fresh without damaging their skin. 

Jon put these and his other purchases into a bag and skipped home again. 

“How did you get on at the shop?” asked Janice. 

“Oh it was fun. That nice Mrs Plum served me, the lady with the scars on her face and arms. She said she always insisted on her five a day and showed me how to hold my banana up straight while she pulled down the skin, then she taught me how to squeeze her melons without getting my hands all sticky.” 

Janice chased Jon, waving the rough end of the pineapple that he had bought. 

Run Jon, run!

Comes in Threes


It was later than usual when I entered the Vic through the Town End turnstile for the Tuesday night match against Bromley ...or was it Boreham Wood? 

On my way in I spotted the newly-installed burger van to my right. Seeing as it was a tad nippy I thought that I would get something warm into me so I asked for a Bovril with loads of pepper on it. Thinking that it would be served in an instant the Van Man switched on a kettle. Talk about personal service. Next thing I heard: the music over the Tannoy and then the cheer of the crowd as the teams took to the pitch. Kettle nearly boiling.

I heard the ref blow so the two captains could exchange pleasantries in the centre circle. Whilst the Van Man shook lots of pepper atop of my beef brew the ref blew his whistle to signal the start of proceedings.

Prior to taking my place on the terrace I bought my two obligatory lottery tickets -- I used to purchase three at one time however with retirement one has to be careful with the pennies ...and give them to the Trust instead.
"Picking the cup up from the barrier I noticed that the paint had already started to peel."

As I made my way to my usual spot on the terrace I had to rest my cup of freshly boiled Bovril on top of a nearby barrier and blow on my blistering hands to cool them down as it felt like it was a crucible of molten metal that I was carrying, not the liquid beef extract of some long-deceased bovine creature.

Picking the cup up from the barrier I noticed that the paint had already started to peel. After enjoying a throughly entertaining first half display from Pools, as well as Bromley Wood, my drink had cooled down sufficiently to take my first sip of the evening and it has to be said, very acceptable it was too, but perhaps a few more additional shakes of the pepper pot would not have gone amiss.

After my second gulp of the pseudo-Oxo, the half time lottery winner was announced. Whilst fumbling through various pockets for my tickets and at the same time spilling copious amounts of Brovil on the concrete terracing and watching it crumble into dust, I noted that I had missed the winning ticket by three numbers. In the greater scheme of things I might as well have missed out by three thousand numbers as you still don't win anything.

Ironically the lad three bodies across from me on the terrace had the winning ticket. And good luck to him. I got to thinking that if I hadn't had to wait the three minutes for that kettle to boil in the burger van I probably would have purchased the winning ticket. My ticket number was 1243. There had to be a three in it didn't there.

Great Chance Wasted

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 0 Guiseley 1 (National League)
Monday April 2nd 2018
Victoria Park

A bloody awful day for football with strong wet and windy conditions that made the game look in doubt after two days of rain. The visitors, Guiseley, the bottom club hoping for a first away win of 2018 was always going to be a dodgy fixture for us. 

How many times has a team come to us on a bad run and turned us over just to break their duck. Some wayward Pools fans were predicting a rout for the home team, especially as they had their keeper sent off on Friday. Their stand-in goalie had nothing to worry about from this shot-shy Pools team this afternoon.

First half, kicking with the wind, we had seventy per cent of the possession and looked very comfortable on the ball, switching play across the pitch with Laing making a series of long passes out to Adams on the wing. I think the only time he missed was when Adams forgot his position and the Laing pass looked wayward.

It was not a great game as the visitors packed their defence and we have struggled before against teams that defend at all costs. Former Pools player Holden was playing for the visitors and his long throws and some neat crosses did cause us a bit of bother. I can only remember one shot from Hawkes that caused any panic in their defence and that took seventeen minutes to arrive.

Loach got down smartly to cover a low drive just on the break but the first half was nothing to write home about. Poor shooting from the visitors kept the game level as they got the better of us in the second half causing some desperate defending from Pools. Even when we did defend well we had difficulty getting the ball up field to even threaten the visitors goal.
"The Guiseley goal was coming and as Pools faded they were really up for the chance of nicking this game"

The comment was made that the lack of a striker coach was the fact that Rodney was not able to fulfil his promise; the lad has speed and shields the ball well but needs to have some of the push and shove that Cassidy shows in his game. The Guiseley goal was coming and as Pools faded they were really up for the chance of nicking this game as we struggled to break out late in the game.

Hawkins almost nicked it for Pools when the keeper dropped his shot and it went through his legs and bounced on the line and was scrambled clear. There was an appeal from Pools but it was waved away, and rightly so as the ball was never in. As Pools tried to push forward in added time a slip by Laing down the left was pounced on as the way was open for the Guiseley attacker who made no mistake, striking the ball across the goal into the side netting giving Loach no chance.

A great chance to make our position safer was wasted today. Maybe they were a little too confident against the bottom team but lets hope it is a wake up call to the lads and they can make amends on Saturday as games are running out.

I would take issue with Bates as he took off both Hawkes and Rodney and put on Oates who was probably not 100% fit and Donaldson who has been out for six months.

Funny Old Game

Great Run Continues

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 2 Bromley 1 (National League)
Tuesday March 29th 2018
Victoria Park

With rumours that a deal was about to be announced for a takeover of the ownership of the club, it looked as if it would be a canny night for Pools fans. Our current performances seemed to be picking up despite a depleted squad. 

A gate of three thousand was an improvement on the last home game as fans drifted back to see if another great escape was in the offing after the cracking result in the televised match at Barrow. Twenty five Bromley fans entertained us in the away end chanting what sounded like WEMBERLIE WEMBERLIE but it could have been Bromerlie Bromerlie, the Ditchie seems to think it was a small band of Bromley fans who travelled up to Gateshead at the weekend and stayed over. One wag behind me said "those that could afford it - yes, the unemployed” I would have thought everyone in the leafy suburbs of Bromley would be employed.

The loss of Harrison again, this time to injury, meant Master Bates had to rejig his squad and he put Hawkins in at full back and a “diamond” of Woods, Featherstone, Newton and a debutant starter (Hawkes) in the middle, with Oates and Cassidy up front. “Diamond”, the only reason I know that is, I was listening to the wireless on the way over and they mentioned a “diamond”.

Well, I think Bates found a “diamond” of his own tonight in young Josh Hawkes. This kid was excellent throughout the game and the way he took his goal, moving across the box and striking a beauty past the Bromley keeper on ten minutes, was a joy to watch. Just the lift we needed and with the new-found confidence that Bates has put into the squad we look a vastly different out fit than that of only a month ago.

Possibly with the aid of his new assistant coaches he has ironed out all the silly mistakes we were making and we now look and play like a decent team. Every player gave their all last night and the confidence oozed out of the players as we pegged the visitors back for the full half, It was sod's law that they managed one effort, a high ball in added time before half time, that was scrambled over the line. It was a bit of a sickener after the way we had played but that’s football, is it not?
"If they can keep this up just maybe we might have a manager of the month curse on us soon."

Second half, Bromley, probably thinking of their trip to Wembley, made a bit more effort and made a few breaks upfield but Pools soon got into their stride once again. An injured Oates was replaced by Rodney and this lad is fast; the number of times he chased a long ball down the wing and won it after giving the defenders a head start was amazing. Cassidy and Rodney both causing panic in the visitors defence as Pools went for that important second goal. It was Rodney who made the chance as he cushioned a header down that Woods rifled into the net giving the visitors' keeper no chance and a safe three points to Pools.

It has to be said that, apart from ten minutes at the end of the game, Bromley came to play football; none of the usual diving and playing up the ref like a lot, probably all the teams we have seen this season. There were two incidents when the same player went down under tackles and did the Italian roll that got Newton booked in the first half. The same player tried it again in the second but was told to get up. The only criticism I would make of the ref was that he allowed forty yard runs down the line when taking throw ins, and he had a bit of a downer on Cassidy and gave him nowt all the game. The Millhouse lino was a disgrace - he was so far behind the game he could have been on holiday.

It was been a great run from the lads: eight points from four games. If they can keep this up just maybe we might have a manager of the month curse on us soon. I hope we are safely home and dry by the time we go to Tranmere for the last game as I watched them on the box this week and they looked impressive in their 3-1 home win at the weekend.

Takeover due any minute. We've all heard that before! - Ed.

Deserved Point

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 0 Boredom Wood 0 (National League)
Saturday March 10th 2018
Victoria Park

Another poor day at the office for the team today but in the end we won a point. It could have gone against us but we rallied a little in the second half and just about deserved a point. 

Another scrappy game in this non-league football division, I should exclude the football bit in that as very little football is ever played. The teams visiting the Vic these days would have been done under the trades description act in the past.

I know I whinge about the officials and having heard that the last one at the Vic in the defeat by Ebbsfleet was a Darlington resident it speaks volumes for the quality of officials and their unbiased handling of games. Todays entity, especially in the first eighty minutes, looked as if he'd been brought with Boreham. Every fifty-fifty ball or decision went against us; when are these clowns ever going to realize that when a player goes into a tackle or jumps for a ball and rolls on the ground clutching his or her head that there is no need to alert an ambulance, as in every instance the whistle to stop the game leads to a miraculous recovery after a little cameo of play-acting once they are on their feet.

As the ex-league boys dropping down we were expected to set a good example and play decent football and go straight back up. At the rate we are going there is only one way and Northern League two beckons. Some around me think that might be a good move but I doubt we would ever make it as a “Phoenix” club.

Very little is known on the terrace as to what is happening as far as the club goes, and the fundraising seems to be drying up according to the football fans on the terrace. You know you are losing the fight when a clown at the kick off screamed "Come on you idiots", and I felt sorry for Rodney who came down the line off the bench to warm up and there was barely two minutes of the game played and one so-called fan behind us in the crowd waited till he came up to the corner flag and screamed "++++ off, Rodney." He is fairly new to this area of the stand; he arrived when those Borer supporters were coming to our aid. The same fan was shouting and waving like a girl at Lewis Laing "Hello Lewis". Obviously a racist fan, which we can do without. Some of the lads in the area are getting a bit tired of this bore and threatened to pay him a visit if it persists.

OK, enough of the negatives and onto the game. There were no real positives other than a hard-won point in this game today. The only visiting team who did not turn us round after winning the toss, but the forty seven travelling fans probably did not care anyway. The visitors, according to the Ditchburn oracle, are sitting pretty on a deal they have going with Arsenal. The Arsenal team train on their pitch and even the Arsenal ladies team play on their pitch and pay for its  maintenance and the Boredom Wood board just take a million pounds a year from the Gunners.

They had most of the first half and should have won the game but a resilient rear guard by Pools and some bloody awful shooting by the visitors gave us a lifeline. We won very little ball in the air with Cassidy winning the odd header but not able to lay it off once it was on the deck. We just lost nearly every tussle for the ball. It was monotonous the number of times they just stood off the high ball and waited till it dropped then robbed us of any possession.

"Football at this level is becoming a non-contact sport, unless you are a visiting player."

We were on the back foot early on as they looked like a decent side and had a good game plan. Down both flanks and in numbers they threatened nearly every attack with Harrison, Donnelly and Loach all giving their all in the defence. But the midfield could not win the ball, never mind hold on to it, with Featherstone again twirling on the ball and getting caught out on numerous occasions. We had hard luck just before the break when Woods had a shot from close range blocked and Newton blasted the return ball and it bounced off the post.

The tension was getting to both teams as some naughty tackles and a few vendettas were going on in nearly every challenge. Pools were angry at the spoiling tactics of the visitors, almost dropping dead after aerial challenge and they knew the ref would stop the game when there was a risk of head injury.

Football at this level is becoming a non-contact sport, unless you are a visiting player. Adams showed some good touches today and almost helped Pools to a lead early in the first half when skinning two defenders. He raced to the edge of the box and sent a great ball in that Cassidy managed to reach but it had no direction and went wide for a goal kick. Harrison was sent off and it was another dive by a Boredom forward as they went for a header. It looked as if the player had been punched by Harrison and then fell to the ground. The way I saw it was that the ref had seen the attacker go down feigning injury, then  jumped up to confront Harrison, who tried to just push him away but it looked like a punch was thrown. We all know Harrison is suspect in these situations but this time it could have cost us, going down to ten men against this side made it look like we were done for.

Typically for Pools, that seemed to make more of a game of it as they took off Newton, who was having a good game, and brought on Laing to replace Harrison. Rodney made a great run down the right and sent in a wonderful low cross that evaded everyone’s attempt to latch on to it, even the defenders. The prize of the day went to Featherstone who had to take a card for the team as he tried battling for the ball in midfield and it broke free with a forward chasing it down.  Featherstone made a rugby tackle that Billy Beaumont would have been proud of as he took the player round the waist and dragged him to the ground.

Pools had a let-off late in the game as Donnelly blocked a powerful shot on the line and I don’t think he even flinched. It would have knocked a bigger man over but it saved a point for Pools.

One incident in the game was very dangerous and upset a lot of home fans. The big centre half for Boredom, I think he was called Stephenson, was under pressure about five yards from the edge of the pitch and he smashed a ball into the crowd in the CK stand; if it had hit a child it would have certainly done some damage. He made sure he did not stray near to the Town End fans for the rest of the game.

Any Other Business


Off the field

We thought it was all over, but it still isn't. 

On the field

What a month March was. Matthew Bates really turned things around, getting performances from the players which we didn't think they were capable of, and causing us all to think relegation was already conquered.

And then April arrived, and a defeat at home against Guiseley, one which could come back to haunt us, and confidence evaporated.

But how many times has the same thing happened in recent years? We seem to be in the mire for much of the season but something happens either in February or March, when Pools string some results together and we're all wondering why they couldn't have done this for the whole season. But then the golden month ends and normal service is restored, and we remember that we support Hartlepool not Liverpool. So it's another few weeks of anxiously staring at league tables and fixture lists for us - as usual!

A Grave Undertaking (by AE)  

A Hartlepool United supporter dies and his widow goes to see his body laid out at the undertakers. The undertaker has dressed him in a smart black suit so that he will leave a memorable lasting impression on his grieving widow. 

When she sees him in the plush velvet-lined coffin in a black suit, she begins to cry and become inconsolable. The undertaker attempts to placate her and after a while she calms herself. She says that although she has come to terms with her husband’s death, what has upset her is that, being a Hartlepool United supporter, his dying wish was to be buried in a blue suit. 

The undertaker says that they always bury them in black suits but if she comes back tomorrow he will see what he can do. She returns the next day and the undertaker shows her the body that is now clothed in a smart blue suit as was his dying wish. She is overjoyed and thanks the undertaker profusely and gives him a large tip. 

She asks him how he got a blue suit. The undertaker explains that purely by chance, after she had left, another body was brought in and as fortune would have it the person was about the same size and build as her husband, was wearing a blue suit and his wife had wanted him to be buried in a black suit. 

The undertaker continued "All I had to do was swap heads".

...And finally

We dithered over whether we ought to have a May edition, given that our final match will have been in April and that the playoffs are now mathematically out of reach. 

However, since the takeover still hasn't happened, and the Trust has confirmed that it's unlikely to happen until well into April, there will still be things to talk about, and, knowing Pools, a few more hiccups on the way, so... see you next month!