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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