Showing posts from January, 2020

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!


Over the past few weeks, the media have carried stories of events that took place during the second decade of the 21st century. So far as Pools go, there’s been plenty to tax the mind. And what a decade!

It began well. The 2009-10 season saw Pools hang on to their League One place on goal difference, a 0-0 draw at Brentford seeing Gillingham dropping down into League Two. 

For the 2010-11 season, Mick Wadsworth took over as manager and Pools finished a creditable 16th. Three things were of note during the Wadsworth reign: Firstly, there was the signing of Nobby Solano – unfortunately, he was past his best and we never saw the best of him. The other signing came when our two goalkeepers (Messrs Flinders and Rafferty) were injured and Mick Wadsworth acquired on loan the services of Blackburn’s third choice keeper, Jake Kean. And what a signing! He must have kept us in a few games – without him, we might have been relegated come the end of the campaign. And so to number three. The last game of the 2010-11 season (30th April 2011) saw Pools take on Bournemouth who needed a point to reach the play-offs. Winning 1-0 going into added time, Bournemouth came unstuck to a goal from an unlikely source, Scott Flinders! Still, we all know where Bournemouth are now. Off the field it was a case of Pools being well run under the stewardship of IOR. Pools fans and Ken Hodcroft always had an ambivalent relationship but the players knew they’d get paid on time and the bills were always paid. I seem to remember Neale Cooper once saying he had to justify the number of times he had to use a paper clip! So things looked good.

"Pools fans and Ken Hodcroft always had an ambivalent relationship but the players knew they’d get paid on time and the bills were always paid."
However, the storm clouds were gathering. The oil industry was struggling and IOR were unable to support the club in the way that they had been. Neale Cooper returned as manager but without that financial support Pools dropped to the bottom of League One and never recovered, being relegated back to League 2. But there was to be no fairy tale of a promotion as there had been under Danny Wilson. Times were bad and IOR sold out to a consortium named TMH (The Monkey Hangers). However, TMH didn’t have the necessary finance and IOR cancelled the sale. One thing that TMH did do, however, was to appoint Ronnie Moore as manager, who, with astute loan signings, was able to prevent Pools from dropping into the National League. Meanwhile, IOR sold out to new owners headed by Gary Coxall.

However, the bad news was delayed and at the end of the 2016/17 season Pools dropped into the National League. This could have been prevented had Coxall not made what was possibly the worst managerial appointment ever in Dave Jones. But things became ugly under Coxall’s leadership in 2018. How near Pools came to going out of business is anyone’s guess. It all culminated in a "Save Pools Day" against Wrexham on Saturday, 20th January 2018. Wrexham supporters almost filled the Rink End and Middlesbrough fans threw their efforts into saving Pools. (I think we even had a bus load of Glasgow Rangers supporters coming down for the game). Poolies and supporters of other clubs dug deep to help the club; important bills were paid and this left things clear for Raj Singh to take over the club, with help from Jeff Stelling. I guess you could write a book on the decade starting in 2011; suffice to say, we’re still going strong and may the next decade bring forth much good.

Sadly, 2018 was to see the death of Neale Cooper and the tributes from Aberdeen and Pools showed the genuine respect in which he was held. He helped to give us our finest hours.

(A crap festive season, wasn’t it?)

New Year - Same Old Rubbish!


Another festive season comes and goes and once again Pools let the fans down, gaining one point from the nine available and producing an absolute load of garbage on the pitch. It says it all when we play a team like Harrogate five times in all and lose four of them.

Ten years ago it would have been unthinkable for Pools to be facing Harrogate in a league match yet here we are with Harrogate turning us over with no problems. This is a result of out-of-touch owners bringing in a succession of useless managers in Colin Cooper, Matthew Bates, Dave Jones, Craig Harrison, Richard Money and Craig Hignett. All utterly useless as can be seen by the number of clubs lining up to employ them after they left Pools. No decent club would touch them with a barge pole. The legacy of this motley crew is to leave us with with the worst squad of players in the club's history.

Dave Challinor has a huge job on his hands trying to get a tune out of these losers and it is hoped he is given enough time to ship them out and assemble a group of players who can get us out of this jumpers-for-goalposts league.

In all honesty we have Peter Kioso, Josh Hawkes and Luke Molyneux up to standard and the rest could easily be scattered without being missed. Of course getting them out the door while they are under contract and nobody else wants them is the problem. It will probably be the end of the season before we can clear the decks - something Hignett should have done last summer instead of offering the dross new contracts and bringing in more inept players to beef up the squad. Quantity before quality is Hignett's maxim and, friends with the owner or not, he deservedly got the bullet albeit probably a few months too late.
"Touré's days at the club could be numbered, even with the shortage of strikers we have at the club."

There appears to be a bit of unrest behind the scenes with Dimi Konstantopoulos who appears to have gone missing with the manager admitting he doesn't know where he is. Hawkes wasn't in the squad on Wednesday despite the manager saying the day before he wasn't an injury worry. Could he be on his way in the transfer window? Jason Kennedy, who was getting quite a few games early in the season, has disappeared off the radar and must be amazed that Xavi is still getting a game while he is out in the cold.

And Gime Touré, after prancing around in the the first half on New Year's Day and producing the square root of nothing was taken off at half-time. According to reports he was not best pleased and made his way straight to the directors' box. Of course this is not the first fall-out Challinor has had with Touré as they were together at Fylde and Touré did not last long at that club. Challinor is not his biggest fan and Touré's days at the club could be numbered, even with the shortage of strikers we have at the club.

So going into the New Year we are seven points off the play-offs and six off the relegation spots. This has a familiar ring to it as it is very much like last season and the season before that. In other words little or no progress despite a lot of hot air about how well we are doing. One win in the last 10 league games shows exactly where we are going. Luke Williams would be a big boost if he could get fit but it is looking increasingly unlikely he will return to the team any time soon.

Our season may not be over yet with an FA cup tie to come and a game in hand in the league but it is difficult to see with the present squad how we are going to move us up the league. Unless Mr Singh can open his cheque book and bring some quality in it seems a forlorn hope. Certainly the fans are doing their bit, giving tremendous support home and away, but with the rubbish being played on the pitch it begs the question "How long will it continue?"

After all the barren years the fans deserve a whole lot better than what they are having to watch. Dull, boring football with no end product and losing to teams of part-timers who play in front of one man and his dog. I doubt there is a worse time to be watching the Pools and the future does not look any brighter.

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The Autumn of '68


Dave - the Cheshire Poolie - contacted us about an old magazine he had bought in an antique shop. He wondered if we'd be interested in using it in MB because its cover showed the Pools ballboys of the day. We were interested - and that cover is shown below. 

Dave only spotted it because it was in the first half dozen of a huge stack of old footy programmes. He says that if it had been any further down he wouldn't have bothered looking that far. Dave also wondered if any of our readers can identify the lads.

For those who don't remember it, the magazine started as a private venture in 1965 but was soon taken over by the Football League. It provided an insert to go in League clubs' match programmes, providing content of a more league-wide nature than the "youth team notes" and "kit-man's view" articles that passed for riveting reading in most programmes at that time. The magazine ran for 10 years until it got too expensive to produce as clubs dropped out of the scheme to expand their own programmes into Match Day Magazines - and inflate the price accordingly.

So with the edition we're talking about being no. 14 of the third season, that would mean it was published some time in November 1968. And given that the lads all look around 11 or so, that means that they would have been born in the late '50s so they would now be in their early sixties.
"If anyone can identify any of those lads, and especially if one of them is reading this, please get in touch with us"

If anyone can identify any of those lads, and especially if one of them is reading this, please get in touch with us ( We'd love to find out who they were and possibly do a piece about their moment of youthful fame (or what passed for fame in those days) when their picture appeared (in colour!) in football grounds up and down the country.

It was interesting to see the view behind the lads. No Mill House stand, but the old Odeon cinema still looks just the same! And it was also interesting to see the lads being dressed in a typically-Pools manner with tracksuit tops of two different designs and two different colours - neither of them blue or white!

Many thanks to Dave - the Cheshire Poolie for providing the magazine, from which other items might appear in future MBs.

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The Final Whistle


Back in the day: 3rd of November 1973 to be precise, I was still two-timing Pools with my then favourite team, now my second-favourite team, West Ham. I was once asked why I started following the Hammers and I can assure you dear reader it was nothing to do with Hurst Moore or Peters but it was easy to spell.

On the day, Pools * were away at Northampton (just checked it!) so taking my life in my hands I made my first visit to Elland Road to see the Leeds United v West Ham match. In the seventies and eighties it was always a fraught experience travelling to football matches and trying one's best to avoid football violence and a possible visit to casualty. Looking back it was mainly daft lads looking out for gangs of other daft lads from rival teams to have a punch up with.

Of all my many football travels around the country over the years, the worst that ever happened to me was getting, when queuing for a ticket at Manchester Piccadilly railway station, a random soft kick up the backside from a pre-pubescent Manchester City fan of limited intelligence. I am guessing, nay hoping, that he was later sent down for his own good.

Our Kid on the other hand, come hail, rain or shine, followed Man Utd all over the country and witnessed all sorts of 'Bovver', once seeing a car overturned by Man U fans in Cambridge. In their defence however, they had probably never seen a car before. Every Saturday after a United away match there would be news on the airwaves of a town centre or a pub being trashed with dozens of police cars and ambulances on the scene tending to the injured.

Not that Our Kid would get involved in any sort of trouble but my poor Irish Catholic mother used to pray and light candles in church for his safe return home each weekend. This did work to a point but on one occasion after coming back from Old Trafford he was, for no apparent reason and nothing connected to football, randomly attacked from behind and beaten up by a local Headland thug 30 yards from my mam's front door. Just goes to show that you don't have to travel far to get a 'good kicking'. However, I digress.

Meanwhile, back in Leeds...

For those fans who had little or no interest in what happened in the confines of the football stadium, there was always the possibility of catching up with the forerunners of the Leeds United Service Crew and the Hammers' very own notorious Intercity Firm, neither of whom specialised in running train services ...ruining trains perhaps but not running them.
"Our Kid ... witnessed all sorts of 'Bovver', once seeing a car overturned by Man U fans in Cambridge. In their defence, however, they had probably never seen a car before."

In a perfect world it would be nice to believe that their members would pre-arrange to meet up for pre- and post-match drinkies, canapés and chuckles, as well as to trade Jolly Japes with one and other. Sadly not the case. Luckily on this, my first visit to the City of Leeds, I managed to avoid all the thickos of the footballing fraternity. This was the era when Leeds United were the most cynical, horrible, dirty, underhand, cheating, unloved team in the land but sadly they had a tendency to win pretty much everything in sight (I won't mention the FA Cup Final against Sunderland earlier that year!)

Five minutes from time and with Leeds four-nil to the good against the East Londoners, I decided that I would make my way home. I had only taken a dozen or so steps from the ground when I heard a big cheer. The Hammers had scored. I went running back through the gates to see the Hammers' players returning to the centre circle and to learn that one of my then all-time favourite players, Ted MacDougall, had grabbed West Ham's one and only goal.

About the same time as I was walking back to Leeds railway station. ruing the missed goal, back in the away dressing room things were getting a bit heated as Hammers legend and my all-time favourite West Ham player, Billy Bonds, criticised MacDougall's work rate or lack of it, and an altercation ensued. Let's face it, there was only ever going to be one winner. Little did I know at the time, but that was to be Ted MacDougall's last goal for the Hammers and later in the month he was sold on to Norwich.

I promised myself that from that day on, I would never leave another football match, come what may, until the ref had blown the final whistle and that has been my mantra for the past 46 seasons. That was until the Pools FA Cup replay against Exeter. As normal time was drawing to a close my pal was in a conundrum, trying to work out, should the game go into extra time and possibly penalties, if he would he be subject to a £50 fine for having exceeded the three hour parking limit in the Morrisons car park. It suddenly dawned on me that I had parked up at Morrisons as well. First time in giddy yonks. It was a case of should we stick or twist.

As the final whistle blew, the incentive of avoiding a £50 parking penalty put us both in the 'twist' camp and we dashed to the exit and told a steward of our predicament who in turn advised that we were not the only ones making haste to Morrisons and not just for the sales.

I got my car out of the car park but the next problem was where to park? I went for the only parking space available, having guessed that no Hartlepool Corporation blue buses now run up Clarence Road, I abandoned my car in the bus lay-by outside the supermarket and dashed back into the ground. As the steward opened the gate to readmit me I was just in time to hear the cheer as Hawkes netted what turned out to be the winner.

Things got worse when I went to the cup match at Harrogate. Pools had just pressed the self-destruct button and from comfortably cruising at two nil up with a couple of minutes until full time the Yorkshire side had pulled level. Nobody around me seemed sure of the protocol once the ref blew the final whistle. Would the game go to a replay? Would it be extra time followed by a penalty shoot out if the scores were still level? Would it go direct to penalties? To be on the safe side and having a couple of pints on board I decided, before the ref blew for full time to make a dash ahead of a possible rush by others in the same mindset, to one of only four unisex Portaloos in the away end.

Having relieved my ageing bladder I emerged from the Portaloo only to see the ball rolling into the back of Pools' net. Had I not bothered to wash my hands in the loo I would have seen the the whole sorry performance of the comedy of errors and Dimi's faux pas that led to Betty's Wanderers' third goal.

Another missed goal. That's three missed goals in getting on for half a century. I hang my head in shame.

The moral of this story is if you don't want to miss a goal, play to the whistle.

* For the record, Pools were beaten one-nil by Northampton 3/11/73.

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Holiday Blues


The other day we were in a travel agent's of all places, booking a city break in Munich. Initially we were looking at going at the back end of March.

Being a bit of a World War 2 buff, whilst in de Fatherland I was planning to sally forth over the border into Austria, as many a German did in 1939, and visit the Eagle's Nest where Das Fuehrer used to put his feet up and chill out after a long hard day in the office.

We were informed that 'De Nest' was not open to tourists until late April. It was suggested to us that May might be a tad warmer and a better time to travel, which sounded ideal. Just then the alarm bells began to ring. Whoa whoa! Wait a minute, let me check something out. Quickly accessing my mobile phone I was trying to find what date the National League play-off final was going to be. Tenth of May. Phew, that was close call - could have missed that.
"I got to thinking. Am I daft? Do I really believe that Pools will make the play-offs, let alone the play-off final?"

A short while later I got to thinking. Am I daft? Do I really believe that Pools will make the play-offs, let alone the play-off final?

Even when my nurse informed me that I hadn't taken my medication earlier I thought, not unlike Nicky Featherstone, that I would play it safe and with a 'sideways' glance at the bride we booked our holiday for the last week in April. The thing is, one way or another, that you can never be sure with Pools.

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The Years Fly By


In last month's Monkey Business, issue number 185, we touched on Mark Maguire's Project 2025 which was revealed in the Hartlepool Mail in November.

To recap, Project 2025 would see major ground improvements and renovation work carried out at Victoria Park with the club playing their football in League One. The club hoped to make an announcement in December.

It is now January, a new year and a new decade and, prior to this being printed, 'We ain't heard nothing yet'. The whole thing could end up a bit like the Brexit fiasco with the leave date constantly being put back. Many fans will be thinking that we have heard all these pie-in-the-sky promises before about ground developments, grandiose plans and the like.
"The whole thing could end up a bit like the Brexit fiasco with the leave date constantly being put back."

To ensure credibility, if there is nothing to announce at this stage, the club should publicly say so or give the reason for the delay. The CEO could hold his hands up and say that he confused the delivery date for Project 2025 with the Zager and Evans hit single 'In the year 2525' which was written in 1969. Confused? I am.

I was recently asked by a friend what were my hopes and thoughts about the forthcoming year. I told him that there was no point asking me as I don't have 20/20 vision!

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Bizz Calendar 2020


It's that time of year again, when most of our New Year Resolutions have already been broken. And it's when we replace last year's dog-eared calendars with shiny new ones.

And here's the traditional Monkey Business one - well, not quite so traditional this time. Like in recent years it's a desk/table/shelf calendar, which is downloaded and printed onto one side of an A4 sheet of card or photographic paper, but with the difference that it shows only the current month on the front but also shows all 366 days on the back. 

The picture shows the printed-out sheet and on it sits an assembled version showing the visible sides and the nested sliding date panels.

It's very straightforward to knock up with scissors and self-adhesive tape or glue, though a metal straight edge/ruler, a craft knife and a bit of care might be useful to make sure the creases go in the right places. Full instructions are printed on the sheet.

The two triangular tubes which show the date are nested into each other and slide inside the outer triangular tube and are slid along, and/or repositioned every month to show the correct month.

The file can be downloaded from HERE

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A "Proper" Cup-tie

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 1 Exeter City 0 (FA Cup, Round 2 replay)
Tuesday 10 December 2019
Victoria Park

It has been a long time since we could say we are up for the cup in the third round. Last night's win was justly deserved for the lads as they battled hard to edge out Exeter City in a tense, nervous game. Both teams were making mistakes and you could say it was a ‘proper’ cup tie as it was end to end from two teams who both lacked any class in front of goal.

The league two side looked confident and behaved like A*$)@!$ by turning us round at the start of the game. Don’tcha just hate it when they do that. The man in the middle was a league referee but to be fair he was not much better than the non-league versions we have got used to in our games. I was of the opinion he was giving too much leeway to the visitors and was very chatty with them, even giving one of them a pat on the bum after a discussion between them but hey ho, whatever rocks your boat.

During a blank spell the Ditchburn, who as we all know is the man in the know, reckoned that the reason we are having games like this is simple. We have not got a reserve team and we cannot accommodate our huge squad, so we should have a team in the Northern League as we need players playing at any level. You see, he does talk sense sometimes and I can agree with that idea.

Ex-Pools keeper Johnny Maxted was in goal for the visitors and he was shocking. He never played for Pools' first team and moved from the Vic to Guiseley. He's the only keeper I have seen this season kick the ball off the pitch more than Killip. Killip, to be fair, made a couple of decent saves to keep us in the tie but the tower of strength at the back was Raynes who should have had the Man-of-the-Match accolade but Featherstone seems to be the flavour of the month in that department, although he did have a canny game in a very competitive midfield battle. Luke James was Mr. 100% again and Mafuta and Touré were magnificent.

The second half saw a vast improvement from Pools and we were the better side, not giving the visitors an inch. Kabamba, Touré and Hawkes all had chances to win the game in the ninety minutes. Possibly Hawkes had the best chance inside the box but lashed his shot straight at the keeper.
"the tower of strength at the back was Raynes who should have had the Man-of-the-Match accolade but Featherstone seems to be the flavour of the month in that department"

Extra time had hardly got going when the Ditchburn had a hissy fit over not contacting his missus to tell her he would be late. I, being the decent chap that I am, offered him my mobile phone but he did not know how to use it and dithered for what seemed like ages and gave me it back, and as I closed the phone I looked up to see this ball wobbling towards the goal above the keeper’s head and into the side netting,

I missed the winning goal and had no idea what had gone on. Mrs. Ditchburn, if you are reading this, get the Ditchy a mobile and show the bugger how to use it or suffer the consequences that millions of wives do and just wait till he gets home to explain the rules of extra time. I had no idea if it was a shot or a cross that went wrong from Hawkes but still, I'm happy for the lad who got us into the next round of the cup.

It was downhill all the way now for Pools just to hang onto the ball but then the ref started to get involved. All through the game he never once blew for a foul throw until Pools were in the lead and he was still looking to give the league team an advantage. Exeter have a long-throw expert, a skinny kid who can hardly carry a ball, but not once was he pulled up when he had a foot on the pitch when throwing yet we get one chance and get pulled up. It was so blatant that the ref was even getting abuse from the press for his one-sided decisions.

We had a couple of chances to double the score but failed and Killip also made a fine block late in the game to win the tie.

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Pressure Pays Off

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 1 Dagenham & R  0 (National League)
Saturday 21 December 2019
Victoria Park

After the farce away at Harrogate last week it was obvious there would be changes made. No sign of Dimi or Kerr who between them apparently blew that game for us, but other accounts also claim there were a few others in the side that seemed to slack off after the two-nil lead.

Killip, Raynes and Toure all were back in and starts for Hamilton,  Shelton and the legend that was Gary Liddell. With thirty-nine away fans joining the 3000 home fans there was a good atmosphere in the ground, and with Pools kicking the right way for a change we looked good after an early scare from the kickoff.

It looked like the classic "defend at all costs and hit them on the break" was the order of the day as the visitors played deep and tried to, er, ...hit us on the break. This hitting us on the break was making the Ditchburn very nervous throughout the first half as Pools had most of the possession and did all of the pressing - it could well be one of those days. Yes, we did press but more often than not the last ball option was either wasted by an offside decision, a poor effort at goal or a loss of possession. The visitors did not look that confident and a massed defence made it hard for Pools.

Hawkes was first to be anywhere near the keeper with a decent shot but it was pushed over the top; Kioso also tested the keeper but the rebound was mis-hit by Touré, who was flagged offside anyway as Pools piled on the pressure coming up to the break.
"There was a slight pause before it dawned on Kitching that he had just won the game for Pools."

The second half was pretty much the same with Pools doing all the pressing. Pools almost scored when a cross came over and Touré, ghosting in at the back post, was so close to breaking the deadlock but the keeper did well to block a close-range effort. Pools, now kicking down the hill, were pressing more and getting into the box. It looked like a point apiece as the visitors were wasting time with the keeper being warned twice but Pools kept up the pressure. The pressure eventually paid off just in time to stop the Ditch going walkabout. Some good approach play by Pools set up Kitching to score his second ever goal for Pools as he flicked the ball over the keeper into the side of the net. There was a slight pause before it dawned on Kitching that he had just won the game for Pools.

Kabamba, who had come on for Mafuta, was causing problems and almost netted a second as Pools took control of the game, one the Daggers now had to come out to play. Liddle  was named Man of the Match, much to the dismay of the Ditchy, who always has an alternative substitute for the accolade but I had to agree with his choice of Featherstone, who looks like he could be a contender for Player of the Year when the time comes. Both Hamilton and Shelton did well and looked to be good additions to the squad.

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Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 2 Barrow 2 (National League)
Saturday 28 December 2019
Victoria Park

Five changes after the Harrogate game was probably all we could expect. Playing the top team in the division we needed to step up and get a bit of form before the game on New Year's Day with Harrogate, who have hammered us twice in a few weeks. 

Today's game, I found out, was a canny game for the neutrals. Two refugees from St James' Park stood behind me for the first half and they claimed they had come to Hartlepool to see some proper football and they were not disappointed. I suppose that if you are not bothered which team wins then it is easier to watch. I got a bit concerned as one laughed like a girl all the time and the pair of them talked computer games. In truth, that conversation should not last more than two minutes but this one lasted most of the half. 

The lads in the top corner of the Neale Cooper stand and the atmosphere they create were  totally missing for most of the first half. Eventually it started to fill and get a bit noisy and one of the Geordies said we should have been up there. Quick as a flash I explained how they could do that and sure enough they were off to the bar in the Cooper stand and never came back. I had nothing against them but when you go in your own spot on the terrace you want your terrace family around you don’t you?

Normality was resumed in the second half and the story of the Neale Cooper crowd was explained: all the fans in that group were given a letter from the club. They have to abide by the rules and sit in their proper seats, a bit over the top methinks and those fans felt the same as they all stormed the top corner and normal service was resumed, and so it should be. Not since the days of the Rink have we had such concerted energy in support of the Pools cause. How stupid can the rules be that stop supporters supporting their team with some noise?

The game was looking to be a tough ask for Pools as Barrow had some quality players in their side and were well drilled, breaking quick and getting in the face of Pools players as soon as they lost the ball. Once Pools settled, the first half was pretty even with both teams making and wasting chances; Pools edged it on possession but the chances were few and far between. Quigley was a lump of a player and Kerr struggled to control him; he had one shot over the top and he ranted like a two-year-old at his team mates for the service. I only hope the foot-stamping and banging of his hands on his head that went on appears  somewhere in the highlights of this game as I've never seen a grown man show such infantile behaviour on a pitch. He did strike one in very well but unfortunately he was offside.

The second half was like a different game as the visitors struck within a minute when, once again, Kerr was caught short and the striker only had to blast a shot at goal which Killip tried to punch but palmed into the net. Pools were getting their act together now and ten minutes later Holohan hit a screamer past their keeper from outside the box which seemed to stun the visitors who had been having it all their own way.

Barrow's second goal was a peach, as a long ball played down the right was crossed and the third touch on the ball was shot low past Killip giving the table-toppers the lead again. Pools' never-say-die attitude rose again as they were now playing better football than the visitors, who looked decidedly raggy at times and turned to time-wasting, chopping players down as the ref only had cards that worked on blue shirts and I lost count how many Pools players were booked.
"Pools did well against a decent if not dirty side"

One of their players who was being subbed was a right clever Charlie and over on the Neale Cooper side he decided to do the slow walk and stood waving at his own fans and stopping every five yards. For once the ref checked his shorts and found out he could possibly be a man and produced a card for the man going off. I though the rule was that players went off at the nearest touchline to prevent this type of behaviour but I guess he was scared to come past me!

Holohan, who is a pretty smart lad, never gave up on a chase into the box and as the ball broke for him his chip was nodded home at the back stick by Donaldson, and Pools thoroughly deserved it for the way they battled back.

If any highlights are shown, then the tackle by Kioso where he won the ball clean and fair yet was booked will expose the ref for the chump he was today. In another incident late in the game, Gime was shielding the ball and was chopped from behind and yet Gime was booked. Kioso was chopped down near the dugouts and he was already off the pitch when  the attacker fell on top of him and punched him in the back of the head as he was getting up, yet nothing was done by the ref.

It was a tough old game and Pools did well against a decent, if not dirty side and thoroughly deserved the comeback, and after our recent results it was very welcome, but I hope we can play the same against Harrogate on New Year's Day.

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Lacklustre Pools

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 0 Harrogate 1 (National League)
Wednesday 1 January 2020
Victoria Park

Just like most Pools fans I am am bloody sick of Harrogate Town. After leading them 2-0, we held up the white flag and got stuffed in the F.A. Trophy, the first game of three. Then the same story in the next - 3-1 this time, but still a surrender. Today I was not expecting anything different as the new decade started. We again played Harrogate and never got a look in as we went down 0-1 to a sloppy goal. They are possibly our new bogey team, and it is not pretty to watch. A point on the day might have helped but to be honest we were never worth a point going by today's fare.

We now look as if we have the division's biggest keeper in 6ft 6 inch Mitchell Beeney who looked ok in the warm up. He stretched out and showed the fans he can reach the bar with both hands without leaving the ground; sounds good but as it proved later a ball on the ground can still roll past him into an empty net.

Killip and Kerr made way for Beeney and Raynes from the last game and sad to say Touré never came out for the second half, which was a big loss.

The first half, with Pools kicking to the Rink End, was a flat affair, even more flat than of late when the lads in the North West corner were once again silenced. Something about not taking seats but this rule is killing the enjoyment and will eventually turn fans away.

I think we had two shots in the whole half when, early doors, Gimi jinked his way into the box but his shot hit the side netting. Later in the half Kioso bounced one off the bar and, apart from a fantastic block inside the keeper's box by Liddle to stop a certain goal, Stead putting one into Morrisons from five yards and Beeney making a couple of saves, there was little else to write home about in the first half.
"Once again Pools came up short at home when this was an opportunity to prove to Harrogate at least we are not bottlers."

The second half started briskly enough but once again Pools lack that killer ball and we wasted our possession with poor crosses. Kitching did find a few gaps but more often there was no one in the middle once the crosses came over or the visitors cleared with ease. Three years now we have been in this division and still we have not figured out how to take any advantage; in every game the visitors take to the ground in a fifty-fifty challenge and con the man in the middle to give up a free kick for them Today it looked like every time they did appeal he gave them the advantage and the same team dived about like dolphins. Their no 4 was on the ground eighteen times in the second half alone. The sad part though is it gives the cheating teams an advantage in good positions and they usually benefit from them.

Today's goal for the visitors came from just that type of decision by the ref. A dive out near the dugouts and the no 4 crumpled in a heap clutching his leg, was given the free kick and the ball went down the wing; a missed tackle from Kitching and Stead was on hand to roll the ball past Beeney. From then on it was the continuous time wasting that is so infuriating to fans of the trailing side: the keeper getting a drink before he picks the ball up then walking right across the goal mouth to take the kick (ok, the ref did point to his watch on the sixth time he did it but sadly that was no deterrent as no card was shown.

One other point: where are the Pools ball boys? An incident in the second half saw Pools in a challenge putting the ball out for a goal kick to the visitors. The player making the challenge walked away from the ball and his keeper wasted more time as he walked to get it.

The Ditchy came up with the idea that, just as a players has to go off at the nearest touchline, then a goalkeeper should come to the side of the goal where the ball went out to take his kick. I await the response from the league officials to the strongly-worded Ditchy letter, once he has sent it.

Once again Pools came up short at home when this was an opportunity to prove to Harrogate at least we are not bottlers. But looking at the three results it is going to give any team confidence when they come up against the lacklustre Pools.

Any Other Business


First of all, we wish all our readers a happy, prosperous and healthy New Year, and a better decade in most respects than the one that we've just left behind.

And for Pools the start of the new decade looked much like the last one, with the festive programme being pretty much a shambles.

Now that Dave Challinor has got his feet under the table he's been seeing the size of the problem he faces, which seems to boil down to having a lot of players who are talented in some respects but lacking in others. So he's been trying them out, dropping them then reinstating them to yet again display the same faults.

Perhaps the playoffs are now a big ask but this manager looks as if he'll be able to eventually set up a competitive team for next season.

VAR has been getting a lot of stick of late. 

While nobody is criticising the role of VAR in resolving "was the ball over the line" issues, the use of VAR for offsides has turned into farce.

The fundamental point to be made about the offside rule is that until VAR came along it was completely down to one man's interpretation of two simultaneous events, only one of which he'd see (unless he had eyes like Marty Feldman) and so he'd have to make a presumption about the other, which maybe would happen 50 yards away from the first. So for a century or so referees have been deciding offsides by educated guesswork and fans and players alike have lived reasonably happily with it. Because of that, referees have been able to make those instant decisions many times during a match and kept games flowing, but bringing VAR into it has brought the chance to do what no human can, to look in 2 directions at once. And just because the technology is there to do it, too many stoppages have been the result.

I suspect that after this season's trial, VAR will be quietly dropped from analysing offsides, or there will be a limit on VAR reviews in a game.

Wallace and Gromit, being a fan of Swedish heavy-metal band Sabaton, found and passed on a connection between the band and Hartlepool. The band love military history so much that when they heard that the museum on the site of the UK’s only First World War battle was in financial trouble – Heugh Battery Museum in Hartlepool – they created a special T-shirt design and raised £4,000.

That's another rock connection to the town to add to Janick Gers of Iron Maiden (who is a Pools fan) and Meat Loaf (who was also one - but only for about 5 minutes!)