Same Old, Same Old


What is it with Dover Athletic and Pools? For one reason or another (holidays weddings etc.) I have yet to set eyes on them. I stand to be corrected but I don't think Pools have beaten them since we joined this God-forsaken league.

Just when you think that Pools could not top last season's Dovergate 'take away' affair we step up another level and see our clubs name splashed across the pages of all the national newspapers and television for all the wrong reasons because of the antics of a few hot headed fans who made racist remarks during the match against Dover.

I won't dwell on all what happened as I am sure it will, rightly, be well-documented on other pages of Monkey Business. The one thing that this fiasco has well and truly done is papered over a few cracks and camouflaged Pools' recent lamentable performances.

The following match after Dover was Chesterfield and we said prior to a ball being kicked that, should the result go the wrong way, Hignett would come out with some banal line such as "The boys were not up for it because the events of Saturday were still in the back of their minds." We weren't far wrong when he came out with 'It was expected.' I am sorry Craig, but that is just an excuse covering up yet another poor performance with little or no direction or bite. He also said 'We were flat', which in truth was little or no different to the two previous games against Dagenham or indeed Dover, let alone against a team like Chesterfield, languishing in the bottom three of the division.

One of Hignett's great weaknesses is his use of substitutes. Unless a player gets injured early on he is reluctant to send a player on from the bench and when he does, I don't know what goes through his mind. One nil down against Dover with barely 5 minutes left he brings on Nicky Featherstone. Why? Does he want to keep the one nil deficit intact and not concede further. With all due respect to Nicky Featherstone, making dynamic runs and pushing the side forward with pace is not on his C.V. Hignett might as well have put the reserve keeper on.
"I fear we are still heading down the same route. Perhaps it is time to change the driver."

A few days later we saw the Chesterfield manager using his subs early on in the second half. Hignett must have scratched his head and wondered what on earth he was up to. I am only surmising that one of Hignett's coaching staff explained to him that the Chesterfield manager was perfectly entitled to swop one player for another and that there was no law to prevent Hignett from doing likewise. Hignett must have dwelt upon this for a period and eventually twelve minutes from time he subbed Hawkes for Noble. In my mind Hawkes should have been subbed 20 minutes earlier as not only had he run out of steam but also ideas. By subbing him earlier it would have given Noble a chance to bed down in midfield.

With barely any worthwhile incursions into the Chesterfield half from Pools and Chesterfield pushing forward, Hignett plays his trump card by sending on Luke James in the 88th minute. Yes the eighty-eighth minute. Hardly game changing. James probably expended more energy taking his track suit off than he did in the the time that he was on the pitch. Hignett, to his credit, wants his side to play football how it should be played. I would argue that is a worthy principle deserving of praise but certainly not in the National League.

Pools are taking far too long building up play to get into their opponents' half and putting them on the back foot. Whilst at times it can be a useful weapon and I am far from advocating the long ball game, but why, like most of our opponents, make twenty passes when two or three might be more productive and damaging. The other thing which is more noticeable, particularly in the last three home games, is that the opposition in the last quarter of an hour or so in each match, winning, losing or drawing, do not sit back but instead take the game to, and pressure Pools. For a team like Chesterfield who had not won away from home this season, one could not have blamed them them and sat back, Craig Hignett style, content to hang on for the point, even more so in the last ten minutes. Not the case, the Spireites (great name for a female Motown backing group.) were pushing forward as Pools defended deep and looked the more likely team to pick up all three points.


Not unlike his borer predecessors at the Vic in our time in the National league, it would appear that Craig Hignett is following a well-worn path in our third season of non-league football. Slow start then a series of decent results, giving hope but ultimately a false dawn (points in the bank for a rainy day) as winter draws in a sequence of poor results against teams from the lower reaches of the division to see any hope of an automatic promotion disappear.

Come January Pools go down the lose, draw, lose, lose, lose, draw course until we have fallen away from any remote chance of getting the last of the play-off places. A brief flirtation with relegation follows until Pools gain a couple of late wins as the season closes to see Pools comfortably sitting in 17th position, 30-odd points off top spot and 15 points from a play off place. From what I have seen so far this season, even with much-improved players in the squad than in the past, I fear we are still heading down the same route. Perhaps it is time to change the driver.

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