Showing posts from January, 2019

New Hope for 2019?


The fact that we beat Gateshead on New Year’s Day must inspire some confidence. 

Holding on to a 2-1 lead proved that better times might be ahead. You were left with the thought that Pools couldn’t be trusted to take a dog out for a walk - they’d lose the bloody lead! Things might be moving forward under Richard Money’s stewardship. Already, Marcus Dinanga and Tyrone O’Neill have gone back to their parent clubs and Jake Cassidy’s return might suggest a more attack-minded approach. His return may help Niko Muir and Luke James who, unfortunately, have been victims of the long-ball strategy. We’ve also suffered from injuries and suspensions - hopefully, we won’t get too many of these.

January is the more difficult of the two transfer windows and options for new blood may be limited. However, Richard Money may have wider contacts than Middlesbrough (!) and this should be of some benefit to us. There’s always a chance that we could obtain the services of more experienced League Two players – possibly a better option than young players from academies.
"Richard Money may have wider contacts than Middlesbrough (!) and this should be of some benefit to us."

The game against Havant and Waterlooville was a strange affair. It seemed that their manager, Lee Bradbury, was a cert for the Pools job but a change of mind saw him stay with the southern club. It was a game where I thought there was a genuine atmosphere amongst Poolies – after all, they didn’t have much competition from the visitors’ supporters which totalled 20. Some comment was made on social media about the tactics of H & W players going down injured on a regular basis. Yet, two stoppages were for head injuries – and another injury resulted in the stretcher being called. Always a difficult call – but referees are under an obligation to treat head injuries seriously. We shouldn’t have it otherwise.

Next week sees the FA Trophy game against Telford. I know some Poolies see this as an unwanted distraction from the serious stuff but it’s a competition that can create momentum. I guess there won’t be many there for the match but it might lead to bigger things – even an appearance at Wembley.

Haven’t seen many complaints about referees lately. Maybe it’s the number of penalties we’re getting! Still, Liam Noble is hitting the net with them on a regular basis. They all count!!

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Mistletoe and Whine


Like many Pools supporters I was taken by surprise by Richard Money's out of the blue (oh, that was Bates's wasn't it?) appointment, particularly when the smart money (scuse pun) was on Lee Bradbury getting the job, more so if the rumours that Pools actually made an approach for the Havant boss are to believed.

Having seen Havant's recent aerobatic display at the Vic, players tripping themselves up, falling down and rolling over at the the slightest contact that would even embarrass Neymar, on that level alone I was delighted that Bradbury was passed over for the vacancy. At one stage even their keeper went down for a few minutes feigning cramp to run the clock down. Their sponge men spent as much time on the pitch as some of their players.

Apart from his Liverpool and Fulham connection I knew little or nothing of Money (scuse pun) but upon checking previous form, he has a very impressive track record. If I recall correctly, his win ratio is something like 45%. The other important thing is that he knows this league. I must confess to some initial concern when I heard his first radio and press interviews as it had a sense of déja-vu as it was a case of Cambridge this and Luton that and I was beginning to think "are you Dave Jones in disguise?" Managers in all walks of life should realise that they are only as good as their next job not the previous one, as Jose Mourinho no doubt will confirm.

Prior to his first appearance at the Vic I do not recall the PA announcer asking the fans for a big rousing Hartlepool welcome for our new manager - nor a "tough-luck" round of applause for the runner up who was in the opposition's dug out. It all seemed very low key. No Abba-esque chants of "Money Money Money."  It did cross my mind that if things did not work out for our new manager I could envisage Poolies on all sides of the ground holding  five/ten pound notes up in the air chanting '"Money out, Money out, Money out!" Hopefully that will not be the case.
"What I did not anticipate was that, after only three games in charge, many fans already seemed to be on his case"

What I did not anticipate was that, after only three games in charge, many fans already seemed to be on his case, some citing that football-wise nothing had changed and it looked as if Matthew Bates was still in the dugout.

In all honesty I was having similar thoughts after Pools' first half performance at Gateshead. I nearly choked on my mulled wine when Money later stated that we were the better side on the day. However after watching the highlights a couple of times over, the 'Send in the clowns' defending for the two Gateshead goals aside, I could see where he was coming from.

The formation was different. Pools built from the back, moving the ball on the deck, trying to bring the wide men into play and putting crosses into the box instead of lumping it any old where from the back for Muir or James to chase after. Magnay played in front of the back four and looked a bit uncomfortable in that role but against Chesterfield first half it was a different story. On the day Muir was a lone striker up front, and did not get the necessary support required from midfield but again it is work in progress. Basically player-wise the manager has been dealt a duff set of cards. Yes, he has two or three decent diamonds but he could do with a few decent hearts in his hand to play with. At present it is a case of make do and mend until he can bring in better, pacier players. Money stated prior to his appointment that he watched every video of Pools this season - little wonder that he has that hang-dog expression and glazed look in his eyes. That said it is not the same as seeing the players in the flesh, so to speak. I am sure he has been told by those within the club and fans alike which players are taking the mick, who are the plodders, which players could do with shedding a few pounds and who was involved with "Pizza gate."

Money, it could be said. is in pre-season mode, looking at every player in the squad which pretty much explains why the whole squad have had game time at one stage or another, to assess if they are fit for purpose and what formation/system suits them best. He will also be casting an eye on those players who aren't cutting the mustard with a view to shipping some of them out, that is if anyone else will take them.

The performance against Gateshead at the Vic was in total contrast to that of the International Stadium on Boxing Day. Some say, arguably, it was Pools best performance of the year!

After a bright opening it looked for a short period of time that the game was going to be a rerun of many of its previous scripts. Leading by a solitary goal, as ever not from open play but a penalty. Failing to convert chances, not being incisive, failing as ever to keep a clean sheet with many in the ground thinking "here we go again" and waiting for the inevitable late goal from the visitors. However Pools did not sit back and took the lead from open play. Although Gateshead pressed it was good to see that Pools were not clinging on by their fingertips like they usually do to prevent an equaliser but were still pushing forward and very much in control. On the down side there was a small chorus of boos when Hawkes was taken off. The lad basically looked tired and faded as the game progressed, but his replacement Paddy McLaughlin scored what proved to be the winning goal with an assist from Nico Muir who was also drawing criticism from a few fans.

Now is the time to get behind the players and the new manager and buy in, and bear with him on what he is trying to put together, which in truth is actually making a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

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Money Talks


At last, we can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel as new manager Richard Money starts to organise the rabble he has inherited.

After the mess his two predecessors, Dumb and Dumber, left the club in, he starting to rectify the problems and organise a system that can see us winning matches rather than being happy with a draw, home or away.

We now have a manager who has achieved success in his career and is not the cheap option or a rookie given a chance with no qualifications to do so. I welcomed the decision to get rid of Matthew Bates who could count himself very lucky to get the job in the first place. As a player he was known as Sicknote for ruling himself out of playing then decided he had had enough and would rather do a bit of coaching and as he was still under contract he was allowed to do so.

I heard a few stories of how he kept us up last season although how I remember it the season before he had two games and needed a draw and a win to keep us in the Football League. When we lost at the mighty Cheltenham the game was up although we won the final game at home to already-promoted Doncaster.

Never a leader of men or managerial material that led from the front, we now have a proper football man who has been having a good look at all the players at his disposal to see if there is anything he can salvage from the carnage. I must admit I had a surprise when in his first match he included Xavi and even made him captain. Although it appears he quickly realised what we all know that the little fat feller is a liability.

With an injury crisis on New Year's Day he was back in the team hopefully for a very short stay. Another one of the master tactician Bates's big decisions was to loan out our main striker to one of our rivals and not replace him. And then wonder for the next few months why we were unable to buy a goal.
"We now have a manager who has achieved success in his career and is not the cheap option or a rookie given a chance with no qualifications to do so."

Thankfully Mr Money has recalled Jake Cassidy and playing him in the right formation with some proper service might see him come good because he has scored goals earlier in his career.

Mr Money must have found out how unfit and overweight some of our players are and how they run out of steam in the last 20 minutes against part-time players.

And if he has been watching DVDs of our matches he will have seen how Scott Loach has gone from being a half decent goalkeeper to someone who is throwing goals in for fun. Which begs the question: What is the goalkeeping coach doing all week?

If our manager can get a few players in during the transfer window and hopefully ship out some of the dross there could be a bright finish to the season. We could do with a creative midfielder, a winger and another striker. Maybe a young full back on loan depending on how many we can move on. Dimi Konstantpoulos and Luke Armstrong from the Borer -  about time they lent us someone decent.

We will have to hope Andrew Davies can stay fit because he is a big player for us in defence and we don't want him to be as unreliable as Bates was, although I would always keep him on. Someone who can put Scott Brown in his place at Parkhead has to be admired.

Realistically the job will take longer than this season and after all the managerial changes we must now stick with Mr Money even if we have some bad results as he represents our best chance of success.

I definitely think we have the right owner and the right manager and that we have reached our lowest point and are now most definitely on the rise with plenty to look forward to.

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How the Other Half Live


With Pools away at Maidenhead and and not wanting to join the mindless moronic millions Christmas shopping on a Saturday - Bah Humbug - I decided to take to the A66 and join the mindless moronic few hundred and take in the Darlington v Nuneaton Borough game at Blackwell Meadows. Purely as a precautionary measure I took the Bride's car, as my own jalopy is covered in HUFC stickers.  I arrived in Darlo a good hour before kick off as I had heard that parking near the ground could be a bit of a nightmare unless of course, you wanted to be rapidly relieved of five pounds for the pleasure of using the club's car parking facilities.

I had planned to leave the car in the South Park area not far from the ground but on the day - not a hope, what with double yellow lines and the few available parking spots occupied by selfish parents taking their children/dogs to the park itself.

When I did eventually find a place to park, to my surprise I discovered that I was nearer to Darlo's old ground than their current lodgings. When I say old ground I mean Feethams and not Bishop Auckland. Got to be said, Polam Lane hasn't changed much since I was last here. After munching my way through a quarter pound of Lion Football wine gums, which,  unlike Maynards, have a full flavoursome taste at half the price (available from Home Bargains and Poundstretcher), I found myself at Blackwell Meadows, home of Darlington Rugby Club which, after my lengthy walk down a country road, seemed to be nearer to Northallerton than Darlington itself.

For an old codger like myself it is a tenner on the turnstile to get in and if you want a seat in the stand you part with a further two quid and in exchange you are given a raffle ticket to gain admission to the covered seated area.

The first sight that greets you when you enter the ground is that of a chap holding a collection bucket. Oh, how we laughed about their bucket collections back in the day, but at least when our chickens came home to roost we got Borer fans to rattle buckets on our behalf as Pools fans would not stoop so low. As I have no axes to grind with Darlo I threw a few bob in. I read recently that after their home game at York over Christmas period this bucket collector had raised nearly two and a half grand so far this season for the club so fair play to the lad. I also purchased a 50/50 half time lottery ticket and when one considers that only 1,050 fans were in the ground on the day yet £600 was given out to the winning ticket holder (...damn and blast - I was about six numbers out!), it makes Pools' £400 lottery prize look paltry by comparison. I also purchased a programme as I hadn't a clue who any of the players were and later forked out a further 20/40p? for an up-to-date team sheet.

I was all set to have a cheeky pint when this Darlo supporter who I got talking to told me that most fans boycott the bar as all the revenue taken goes into the rugby club's coffers and not the Loids'. Let's say that both clubs are not the best of bed-mates. With that in mind, I instead opted for a Bovril and - yes - pepper was also available to add to the stock. At £1.50 a cup, ten bob cheaper than Pools.

I spoke to a number of Darlo fans (told them I was a Poolie) and we shared our tales of woe. A few weeks back they sold their leading goalscorer and Gibraltar international Reece Styche more or less to get him off their wage bill. They reckoned that he was on £900 per week. Also during the week two other lads were let go rumoured to be on £700 per week. I was stunned to hear that several of their players who had to travel from other parts of the country had recently not bothered turning up for training sessions. They were tickled when I told them about the Pizza Express coach journey to Dover. It has got to be said that none of them had a bad word to say about Raj Singh and agreed that like Pools under the likes of Garry Gibson and Uncle Ken they had some good times under his tenure.

No one had a clue who the subs were and when they warmed up, had never seen them before. They all looked like primary school children who should be attending their school's Nativity play. I doubted any of them would actually get a game as they would either have to leave early to start their paper rounds or that their mothers would not allow them to play out in the dark.

On my way to the seats I saw an old familiar friend in the popular end, whom I had not seen in many a day, namely The Tin Shed, which has been resurrected and reinstated in all its glory. Many a derby match I stood on its terracing, honestly believing it was the away end as so many Poolies used to occupy it on match day. Good to see many of the old sponsors' names (such as the ever-faithful Glenwood Paints) still adorning the cladding. The match itself was a six pointer, with Nuneaton bottom of the table and Darlo a few points off the relegation zone.

I was trying to remain neutral but it was hard to do so as Nuneaton came out wearing a strip almost identical to Pools' but without the big white patch on the rear.

Another thing that shifted my allegiance towards the away side was that as the teams came out this almighty noise started up from the Tin Shed. No it was not the crowd cheering but the little drummer boy whom I first encountered at the Arena (Darlo v Barnet in 2008), who was still banging away for all his worth. I must confess that his technique had not improved at all over the passing years. Drums, much like bad referees and smoke flares, should not be allowed in football grounds. The only plus side was that on this occasion I was 50 yards away from him 'banging on' whereas at the Arena he was half a dozen terraces behind me. Luckily, there were only 1,300 fans in the Arena that day so we were able to move out of sound's way and find other seats without too much hassle.

Darlo had the better of the first half but went in one-nil down at half time due to a stonker of a goal from whats'isname, the Nuneaton midfielder.

The two left wingers on either side stole the show playing like proper wing men ought to, tearing down their respective flanks and running their markers ragged and putting crosses in. Darlo's winger had just signed on loan from Sunderland and boy was he quick and rained in numerous crosses that unfortunately from Darlington's point of view nobody seemed to be able to convert. He, sadly for Darlo, as well as the home fans and the neutrals alike, faded as the second half wore on (I think he was only 17 years old). Having equalised shortly after the restart, Darlo with their tails up had several chances to take the lead but it was not to be as Nuneaton's outstanding winger left his marker for dead and rifled in a shot that, if the Darlo keeper had got hold of it, would have required reconstructive surgery on both of his hands.
"It has got to be said that none of them had a bad word to say about Raj Singh"

The strangest thing I have ever witnessed at a football match occurred after the half time interval when after only ten minutes in their dressing room Tommy Wright, the Darlington manager, sent his players back on the pitch and they lined up statuesque in their starting formation. After a couple of minutes the fans started shouting at them to warm up or start running around to prevent their muscles seizing up. Towards the end of the match much the same thing happened when a Nuneaton player spent 6 or 7 minutes receiving treatment before being carried off. The Darlo players stood around like tailor's dummies while the Nuneaton players had balls thrown to them for a kick around to keep warm.

For old time's sake I spent the last few minutes of the match in the Tin Shed, at which stage the players were being abused for each chance missed or a bad pass but when the final whistle blew the atmosphere became worse as the dejected players left the pitch. Yes, on occasion teams do get beaten by the bottom club at home but I did not think that Darlo played that badly and the players, management and directors certainly did not warrant the vitriol that was directed at them. I later read that it all got very heated and that the wife of one director had been subjected to abusive language by the fans.

The fans I witnessed who were hot under the collar were only kids, most of whom had probably never heard of Pools and were too young to have attended a match at Feethams.

In the main, a very enjoyable afternoon. I met a lot of real, loyal, die-hard Darlo fans who care deeply and passionately about their club, as many Poolies do about their own, and bear their plight stoically without the hysterics of some of their younger fans and for that I wish them and their team well ...just as long as Pools are always one step ahead of them!

Postscript: Since this match Darlo have signed four or five more loan players and their form has dramatically improved.  They have played four games. winning two (including a 5-1 thrashing of York), losing one (by the odd goal in three, away to the league leaders Chorley) and a draw (goals for: 12, goals against: 8.) One of the loanees, Andrew Nelson from Sunderland who Pools previously had on loan, has bagged himself six goals in four matches. Ged McNamee needs to be getting on the telephone to his Mackem contacts when this lad's loan period at Darlo expires .One other Darlo player who caught my eye was Luke Trotman the right back. I'll give in, not the greatest defensive performance that I have seen, but very good going forward. Could be a decent midfielder ...alongside Liam Noble.

For the record Nuneaton Borough have lost all their games since their encounter with the Loids.

Right, I must dash because my rehab session is about to start as it seems I am developing a soft spot for Darlington FC and I need to be shouting for Pools when they meet in the next round of the Durham Challenge Cup at the end of Jan. Wish me luck.

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Great Start to the Year

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 2 Gateshead 1 (National League)
Tuesday 1 January 2019
Victoria Park

The festive return game. I missed last week's and was a bit pleased about that after listening to the radio commentary but reports from fans who made the trip said that despite the defeat we battered them late in that game. 

I expected the manager to change things a bit for the return leg but the only new face in the team was Featherstone for the injured Rodgers.

I said to the Ditchburn that we owe them one for last week and if we can win the toss and get an early goal then it was going to be a three-one home win for Pools. Only four hundred and thirty six Heed fans turned up but they have history from the first game of fiddling the figures*. The Tannoy at the International Stadium gave out that there were two and a half thousand fans at the game and the announcer switched the figures as the Pools fans out numbered the home fans two to one yet he claimed last week there were only eight hundred visiting fans in the stadium. It's just not cricket is it?

Today's game was just that; we won the toss and decided to field. Pools set off at a great pace swinging the ball around and no kidding we even bowled them a googly as they started to complain about the ball in play not being right so the ref swapped it over and the first time the ball went over the stand we brought on the wobbly ball which really seemed to upset one or two of their players but even though it was swapped again the ball kept getting re introduced.

The early goal was a Christmas gift as Pools were awarded a penalty on seven minutes after Donaldson was brought down and the ref pointed to the spot and he was in a good position, no doubts. The Ditch who is an aficionado of such things as football officials commented the he does not dawdle around and any free kick is given instantly and apart from the normal abuse of Luke that he let go a few times he was not a bad ref. Luke was desperate to take the kick but Noble overruled him and sent the keeper the wrong way; shame he did not do the same last week or we would have got at least a point up there. Their striker from last week who tortured us, Armstrong, son of a Boro striker, refused to play as it looks as if he has a deal somewhere. Another name in the the frame today was Robbie Tinkler who possibly [to be confirmed] was the son of the Pools legend and he was a stand-out player today.
"Luke James was streets ahead today; ...he was magnificent."

"Two out of three" the Ditchy said, "won the toss and an early goal." Pools' tails were up and we played some good football that kept the visitors on the back foot. Gateshead were a well organized team and probably a little shaken by the early goal but Pools were resolute in defence, albeit a little slow in building up attacks but we did keep the ball down in the strong wind and played some good football especially in the first half. Tinkler almost caught out Loach with a belter from outside the box but fortunately for Loach it struck the angle of bar and post and was cleared. It was one of those shots that a keeper could do nothing about and if it had gone in all you could have done would be to applaud a spectacular shot. Loach made a spectacular save running towards his back post after a speculative high ball from out on the left looked as if it was going to dip under the bar. Many a lesser keeper would have been caught out but Loach leapt to his right and got the slightest touch on the ball to push it wide but then clattered his head on the post, needing some attention from the physio.

The second half was a bit of a turnaround as the visitors started to make a comeback and it was their turn for the slick football and they looked a decent side, attacking quicker than Pools did and testing Loach a few times but he was on form today making a couple of excellent saves. Loach could do nothing about the Gateshead goal as another free kick which should never have been given undid the Pools defence as a ball headed by Anderson went past Loach to give them the equalizer. As resolute as they had been in the first half you could sense the panic at times in the Pools rearguard and the distribution suffered. Loach took a kick to the head diving at the feet of an opposition player who was charging into the box and again need attention.

The manager started tinkering with the side and Ditchy thought he was mad to bring Paddy on at a crucial time in the game but Paddy was the saviour as he latched onto a ball from Kioso, who had also been brought on, and hit a shot past their keeper giving Pools the lead. Paddy took great delight in scoring this one and ran back to celebrate in front of the visitors.

Pools held out as the extra four minutes was added but they looked like they had got things back on track to run out two one winners thanks to a wobbly ball and some very good rearguard football in the second half despite the odd panic.

Some good contenders for the Man-of-the-Match: Loach, Noble, Kitching and Donaldson, who all played really well but Luke James was streets ahead today; his ball control taking high balls on the end of his foot from the keeper and turning his man and leaving him for dead was a joy to see and it happened throughout the game; he was magnificent. A great start to 2019.

* Allegedly

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Should Have Been 3 Points

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 1 Havant & Waterlooville 1 (National League)
Saturday 22 December 2018
Victoria Park

I really must get a letter off to the Council about that bloody awful request crossing on Marina Way. It is becoming monotonous now. Every trip to the Vic I find myself being hampered by pedestrians wanting to cross the road. Ok, people have to cross the road but do they have to do it in bloody dribs and drabs? Why can’t they form an orderly queue of say 100 people then they can halt all the traffic in the town and cross together.

Today I was at the BALLS roundabout and I was sitting in two jam-packed lanes of traffic, sitting wasting precious fuel as some clown presses a button on a crossing nearly a mile away halting a thousand cars because he wants to cross the road. Once he has crossed his mate will walk up behind him and do the same bloody trick. It has to stop NOW!

Because I was held up in traffic I was six minutes late for the match. We could have been four goals up and the game already over in that time. As it happens I had missed nowt but that is not the point; I could have missed four goals from Pools and video is just not the same as being there is it?

Richard Money opening his account at the Vic with a decent crowd there to see it. Twenty-four fans made the journey from Havant in three Porsches and a Range Rover. Ok, I am being facetious but it has been that kind of day. "Money made changes” as he brought Noble, James and Davies back and Dinanga was not even on the bench. he recalled Hawkins from York and is recalling Cassidy from Maidenhead so he's probably looking at all his options in time for the January transfer roundabout.
"we have to be glad of a point although once again it could and should have been three"

The game started at a good pace with both teams having chances but the move for the opener for the visitors was excellent football. A one-two between a couple of players found an attacker out wide of the box; he advanced towards the box where the Pools defenders became spectators as he hit a wonderful low shot past Loach that hit the far post and rolled in past the keeper who had no chance of stopping it. Noble got the equaliser as Pools stepped up their efforts and he nicked the ball in the box and again a low shot this time past their keeper.

I know I say it every week but Luke James takes some stick and never gets any cover from the ref; it was sixty minutes into the game before he was given a free kick as the persistent centre half clattered him again on the edge of the box. All through the game the visitors conned the ref with their tactics of jumping into a man and then rolling in agony and the official fell for it time after time. I can honestly say that every Havant player went down during the game and called for a physio at least twice, in fact one of my pics shows two of them down together. If that is the team that Lee Bradbury has put together then I am so glad he was overlooked by Pools for the job.

Some good performances today, especially from Magnay, James and Kitching, and in the latter stages Donaldson was very lively but it has to be said that for long periods, especially in the second half, Pools were second best. And as soon as Pools looked to be getting in their stride and threatening, the visitors' spoiling tactics came into their game.

The lack of taking chances must worry the new manager as Muir could have had four in the second half alone if he could have got a decent shot off.

Hawkes, who came on for Featherstone, had the best effort of the game when he smashed a shot from the edge of the box that the keeper dropped; unfortunately there was not a Pools player close enough to capitalise on the dropped ball.

The six minutes added on for the injured or dying Havant players just in the second half and four minutes in the first made the Vic look like a scene from M-A-S-H, with the yellow bodies lying all over the place but we have to be glad of a point although once again it could and should have been three.

Pools: Loach, Magnay, Rodgers (Richardson 46), Davies, Kitching, Featherstone (Hawkes 73), McLaughlin, Noble, Donaldson, Muir, James (Newton 81)

Subs Not Used: Hawkins, Anderson

Havant & Waterlooville: Dudzinski, Strugnell, Williams, Stock (Hall 44), Harris, Lewis (Tarbuck 46), Kabamba, Robinson, Rutherford (Wood 54), Cordner, Frost.

Subs Not Used: Woodford, Bradley.

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Dismal Day but Good Result

Match report by BILL THE BIRO

Leamington 0 Pools 1 (FA Trophy)
Saturday 15 December 2018
New Windmill Ground

I've now been to three away matches this season and one at home, and I have to say I've enjoyed them all, not least because we won them all. However I'm especially enjoying the non-league atmosphere.

I recently explained it to a Wolves fan: League Two clubs are basically downmarket Premier League clubs where it seems more like a business than a proper "club" in the social club sense. On the other hand, at the smaller National League clubs, the likes of Solihull and Havant, more of a social club atmosphere pervades the place - no segregation, a large and comfortable bar, no extortionate parking charges, and everyone's friendly. Ok, the stadium facilities, the seating and terracing may be smaller and less likely to be covered, but the catering's usually up to scratch (well, by football standards, at least!) And with the smaller crowds and grounds you're inevitably closer to the action and can hear the players and officials. It's all a bit more intimate, and perhaps a tiny bit more like Sunday League.

But when Pools were drawn away at Leamington I had an even lower-level atmosphere to experience. I also had my shortest trip ever to an away match at a mere twelve miles. Now while I know the centre of Leamington Spa* very well, I don't know its outskirts too well. And having looked at the map I thought that I'd follow the Google suggested route avoiding the town itself. That seemed a good strategy since Leamington's New Windmill Ground is in the middle of nowhere, half way between Leamington and the village of Harbury. But having a bit of local knowledge I decided I didn't need the satnav. As a result my 12 mile trip with its resulting wrong turns ended up at more like 20. However we managed to find it in good time.

Leamington used to be called AP Leamington for many years, after Automotive Products,  who used to make Lockheed brakes and clutches for cars in the town until 2000, and for that reason their nickname was, and still is, The Brakes.

The New Windmill Ground's location, surrounded all round by farmland, gives the impression that some footy fan farmer donated a field as a stadium. That impression can only be heightened when you go inside. It's basically the Grayfields enclosure (as I remember it from 50 years ago) with a 4-terrace deep shelter along one end and a shorter version with seats acting as the main grandstand along one side.

The bar was exemplary, being not only comfortable and fairly large, but also selling real ale at prices lower than in a typical pub in these parts. And that, coupled with the cheap tickets and free car park made it a very inexpensive day out.
"The match itself was really a victim of the weather. It was very cold, it rained almost throughout and a strong sidewind made a lottery of long balls"

The match itself was really a victim of the weather. It was very cold, it rained almost throughout and a strong sidewind made a lottery of long balls and I was glad to be under a roof and felt sorry for the players. Pools played most of the football but didn't do a lot to impress their new manager, and Leamington didn't manage a shot.

The only highlight was a solo goal by Ryan Donaldson who took the ball from the centre circle and jinked past several defenders before scoring. Perhaps a better opposition may have prevented it or perhaps the lack of anything to compare with it made it stand out. The other incident of note was when a Pools player slid off the pitch towards an advertising hoarding. His foot went through it and he needed assistance to retrieve it.

As the match wore on and it got colder (my toes were feeling the effects despite two pairs of socks, bringing back thoughts of standing in the Rink End many years ago), some nearby Leamington fans gave an entertaining commentary. With the match possibly going to extra time and penalties, they were imploring Loach to not let in an equaliser as they couldn't take an extra half-hour of this! I had to agree, and their wish, and perhaps that of every other person in the ground, was granted, and we all disappeared fairly sharpish to warm up and dry out.

Leamington FC had asked people to car-share as they only had space for 450 cars, and they laid on a bus service from the town centre. I guessed the attendance to be around the 700 mark, which proved to be double the official figure, but given the conditions I can't blame people for choosing to stay at home or go Christmas shopping, although I sympathised with the club, with their big occasion having been a bit of a washout.

Richard Money probably didn't learn too much from this game but it got his reign off to a winning start.

* Leamington Spa, to give it its proper name - which nobody does - is a sort of poor man's Cheltenham or Harrogate ... and its spa water tastes awful, by the way!

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Any Other Business


First of all, a Happy New Year to all our readers. Well, as others point out, Richard Money has started out shaking things up fairly quickly so Pools-wise at least things are looking up.

Some people complaining that he should have assessed his squad in practice matches rather than risking league points, but in a few weeks he does seem to be making a difference, and encouraging a Pools style of football.

With Pools about ten points away from both where we want to be and where we don't, it's still all to play for. Realistically, ending up where we now are is probably all we can expect, but the picture is suddenly looking a bit rosier and it's good to dream!

We were saddened to hear of the death at the age of 92 of Tommy Johnson, Pools' physio in the 1960s and 70s, who then went on to Middlesbrough. He played for Middlesbrough a few times immediately after the Second World War and after retiring from playing spent 25 years with bucket and sponge at Pools under various managers, before returning to the Boro for 10 more years.

Wallace and Gromit found this in Stuart Maconie's book "Pies and Prejudice". It was probably only sent in to us to wind up the Poolie-folkie Bizz editor, but it does capture the spirit of towns like ours.

And now, some extra bits and pieces from Billy's Contract:

Last couple of weeks Scott Loach seems to have taken a step backwards. All the usual stuff everyone on the terraces is familiar with. Not coming off his line or dominating his box; punching the ball out instead of catching it and parrying shots back into play when many of them could be held. To that end I think that one of Richard Money's first signings in the backroom department should be a goalkeeping coach for the ...mmmm goalkeeping coach.

I was staggered to hear on the radio today that Pools had only won six home matches at the Vic in 2018. Can't be true, I thought that must be wrong as I recall seeing quite a few wins but when I checked they were all away from home. At least 2019 has seen us get off to a good start.

OBE (Oh, Bloody England)
I like Gareth Southgate. A very good footballer in his day Well spoken, intelligent, well mannered, respectful and comes over as a bit of a gent. The type of chap you would like your daughter to marry ...provided of course that the current Mrs. Southgate does not object. He looks, where many have failed, to be getting to grips with and raising the profile of the England football team to another level, to the point that former disenchanted fans are starting to take an interest in the national side once more.

What I am unable to grasp is why he was awarded an OBE in the Queen's New Year honours list in the first place - he has won nowt. Admittedly England did better than many people expected in the last World Cup but they tended to bumble along, stumbling into the quarters whilst at the same time not setting the World Cup alight.

Now if he was awarded the gong for giving West Ham's brilliant young midfielder Declan Rice his first England Cap before he commits to the Irish Republic, or if the award was for doing for the waistcoat industry what Lady Diana did for the millinery (hats to you and me) trade, well fair play to him, but not for under-achieving.

Late inclusion taken from Tuesday night's ...sorry, Tuesday morning's Hartlepool Mail:

“Harvey Rodgers called in this morning and told me he felt his thigh, so we had to frantically change the thinking before kick off which was far from ideal.
“Newton was another who felt his thigh in training on Monday.
“We will wait and see on those players.”

All I can say is thank goodness that the players in question are hopefully only feeling their thighs and not their groins otherwise this article could be explosive. Perhaps we should get these players to the rehab centre in Little Fondling.

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