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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