Showing posts from March, 2020

It's On, It's Definitely On!


After taking seven points against Notts County, Boreham Wood and Solihull Moors, a place in the play-offs beckons.

And we are better prepared under manager Dave Challinor than we have been for some time under his predecessors. At the moment we have nothing to complain about in the way he is doing things and he is even getting a tune from Xavi. Although getting him to lose a few clem has obviously helped.

Bringing Ben Killip back in goal has worked but I still have my doubts about him long term. Too small for me but he is doing a job at the moment.

It is very tight in the top half of the table at present with a number of teams capable of securing a place in the play-offs. But we are as good as some and better than most and it depends on whether we keep our bottle if we can get there. The manager has been there before and knows what it takes so we must hope he can steer us into the top seven. If teams like Barrow, Halifax and Harrogate are battling it out at the top then we have nothing to fear in this league.
"Pools really need to get out of this league this season as the longer a team stays in the National League the harder it becomes to get out of it."

Our five loan signings are all doing well and looking good business by Challinor and Luke Molyneux getting back to full fitness is as good as having a new signing. Good to see Aidan Keena on target again and he can be a big positive in our remaining games. Recommended to Pools by Jon Daly who worked with him as a coach at Hearts, Aidan will be a big success if he turns out to be half the footballer Daly was with Pools. If only Jon was ten years younger and looking for a club we would really be in business.

Although Stockport and Yeovil are up there challenging it is strange to see former league clubs Wrexham and Chesterfield struggling in the bottom half of the table. Pools really need to get out of this league this season as the longer a team stays in the National League the harder it becomes to get out of it. Our present squad is better than most clubs in the top nine and now we have got ourselves into this position we must surely make it count.

Challinor is already looking at the squad with a view to next season although which league the club are playing in will play a big part in his planning. I would assume most of the loan players we have at present would be targets for next season with Gary Liddle and Mark Shelton more or less certain to stay. Macaulay Southam-Hales would be a welcome addition with some powerful performances at right-back and is someone with genuine pace which is always welcome in the side.

Some of the fringe players like Cunningham, Kennedy, Bale, Richardson, Raynes, Anderson and the infamous Luke Williams look likely to be shown the exit door. If we are promoted I would add Killip, Featherstone and Donaldson to the list but it seems Challinor sees something in the latter two that most of us cannot see. Perhaps it is because they have been around when we were perennial losers for so long it may be time for a change. Which could be good for all parties.

Ebbsfleet on Saturday gives us the chance to get rare back-to-back victories and force our way into a play-off position. After so many let-downs over the years when something good was about to happen please don't let us down this time boys.

Come on you Pools!

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Hey, Nicky, You're so Fine


I never thought I would say this but I am having second thoughts about Nicky Featherstone. It would seem that in many supporters' eyes he has turned from a frog to a prince. The effect of his recent performances is akin to that of having brought in a decent signing.

Out of all the players in the squad it would be fair to say that he has benefited most from Dave Challinor's tutelage. We always knew there was a midfield player in him somewhere and Challinor has found it. I am just hoping that it won't prove to be a false dawn as I recall that under Craig Harrison he had a similar, albeit short spell, and mainly in friendlies it has to be said, of pushing forward and indeed at times looking the part but soon reverted back to form.

The following season he got his backside into gear when Liam Noble arrived at the club
and once again he seemed to come out of his shell, pushing forward and even getting on the score sheet. His game at Halifax last season was in my eyes his best game ever in a Pools shirt and he scored a spectacular goal to boot.

Ironically, a few days later at Salford, he probably had one of his worst games for the club. One thing that is evident is that every Pools manager, caretaker or otherwise* has played him on a regular basis and he has hardly been out of the side since the day Paul Murray signed him. So am I missing something?

I have on many an occasion in MB decried his style of play. His square sideways passing. Back Passing. Being caught in possession. For me his biggest crime is the way he slows the game down unnecessarily to the benefit of our opponents by not making that one quick decisive pass.
"On current form I would say he must be the firm favourite to be the Player-of-the-Year"

I often said he would not make my eleven-a-side team but he would be first pick in my 5-a- side team. This view was shared on a recent Pools video when, owing to the atrocious weather, the team were confined to the Domes at Seaton for training. Before several 5-a- side teams were set up, the interviewer asked each player who they would want in their team and almost unanimously it was Featherstone's name that was called.

I also put the case forward that he could play at a higher level and would be better suited playing in a side that passed the ball around and built up from the back. He would slot into Pep Guardiola's side (or Barca's or Real's) with ease as long as he did not have to cross the half way line.

So how has this metamorphosis occurred? For my money it was the day Dave Challinor walked through the door and transformed him. He is an entirely different player to the one we have been watching over the last five seasons. On current form the way he is playing he just might be in with a chance of breaking Ritchie Humphreys' record number of appearances for the club.

For the Yeovil game - Craig Hignett's last at the Vic - and owing to circumstances beyond my control, I viewed the match from the Cyril Knowles stand and paid particular attention to our midfield maestro.

He made seven back passes to the keeper. One of them from an attacking position 5 yards into the oppositions half.

Normally I am quite controlled and I don't subscribe to getting on players' backs if something goes wrong or an individual makes a mistake. A quiet mumble to myself will suffice or at worse I roll my eyes to the heavens but on this occasion Featherstone had me out of my seat and flinging my dut down on the terrace in frustration. It got worse with minutes to go before the full-time whistle; Featherstone was culpable in part for Yeovil's equaliser. In fairness, minutes later he did atone himself by stepping up a gear for the first time in the match; he moved forward with pace and played his part in Pools' last-minute winner.

Two seasons on the trot Featherstone came back pre-season and was clearly carrying some, let's say 'excess baggage', and in truth looked sluggish. Challinor made comment in the media that Featherstone has recently had a change of diet and it has to be said his shirt looks a tad baggier on him than at the beginning of the 2019/20 campaign. I am speculating that, not unlike myself, he is one of these people who only has to look at a Wispa bar and puts on a stone in weight.

He is now playing further forward and supporting the front runners and more markedly the square balls and back passing to the keeper look to be, fingers crossed, a thing of the past.

He is not afraid to have a pop at goal which gives the team some added firepower. However the thing that most impressed me in the recent game against Notts County was that when pushing forward he was dispossessed of the ball and literally ran back ten yards like a terrier and retrieved the ball and set up a further attack.

Although, thankfully, it does not happen as often as it once did, he does still have a tendency to run a couple of paces with the ball rather than making a quick pass to keep the momentum from breaking when Pools are attacking. It is obvious Dave Challinor sees something in the player otherwise he would not have offered the player new terms well ahead of the close season.

On current form I would say he must be the firm favourite to be the Player-of-the-Year and provided he maintains his current form, and you heard it here first, even I might vote for him. Now that is eating humble pie.

P.S. / N.B. / Stop Press
This was typed up before the Boreham Wood game where he was distinctly average.

* Dave Jones

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Can't Be Bad!!!


Last month I said “More Consistency Needed”. And, believe it or not, the prayers were answered. Two home victories against Aldershot and Notts County (with two clean sheets); a creditable draw against Boreham Wood and then a victory against Solihull Moors. And what’s more, the games against Boreham Wood and Solihull were against two sides in play off positions.

It's not come about by accident. I’ve never known a recent Pools manager get such a good press on the social media. And Dave Challinor deserves it.

When we sold Peter Kioso to Luton he moved quickly to get a loan replacement and the defence has been strengthened by bringing in Gary Liddle. We’re no longer relying on academy players from Middlesbrough – Dave Challinor’s contacts spread much wider.
"Let’s hope that Dave Challinor doesn’t get Manager of the Month – we can do without that!"

Substutions are also relevant. As well, we’ve been unchanged for four games – another sign of consistency. There’s also variations in our attacking movements. No longer are we pumping so many balls from defence. There’s movement on the ground and that’s the way to put pressure on opposing teams in this league. Let’s hope that Dave Challinor doesn’t get Manager of the Month – we can do without that!

A look at the attendances for last Saturday reveals interesting figures. Boreham Wood attracted 932 spectators of which a third were Poolies. And Solihull Moors attracted the princely sum of 773. How these clubs can survive is beyond me. Pools are doing very well in the attendance stakes – shouldn’t be long before we’re attracting over 4,000.

Mention has been made of the support we’re getting from the North West Corner. It's very welcome and is aided by the existence of a drum. Drums are ok – as long as they’re not right behind you. I remember seeing an England v Sweden women’s international at Pools and the bloody drum was right behind me in the Neale Cooper Stand. Glad when the game was over!

On a personal note, this month is 45 years since we moved to Hartlepool. I’ve never regretted it and have watched Pools with varying success (and failure) over the years. My dad always liked to pay occasional visits to Victoria Park – preceded by a pint in the Mill House. He liked to go there most of all in the 1960s as the landlord was ex-boxer Teddy Gardner. He was still nimble In his later years!

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Man City v UEFA


I see that Manchester City are in some very hot water regarding some sort of financial shenanigans or other. I don't know the ins and outs of the case, nor care much for Manchester City, but it would appear that they have already been sentenced without a trial.

Over a year ago one UEFA official said that City are going to be fined; I think the figure mentioned was £40 million, plus a two year ban from all European competition. This being put to a court, it would appear that UEFA, or the individual in question who made these comments, must be adhering to French law whereby the accused are guilty until proved innocent, unlike in UK law where it is the reverse. The accused is innocent, no matter how bad the crime, until proven guilty.

For the record, apart from their cars I am not having a pop at the French and their way of doing things. For example I always make a point of travelling on French ships. Well, for a start, if the vessel is in distress and in danger of sinking, there is none of this British stiff-upper-lip nonsense of 'women and children first.' The French system is 'Every man for himself' which, had it been adopted when the Titanic sank, would have resulted in less loss of life than actually occurred. Makes sense to me, especially as nowadays both sexes are equal.
"a double relegation to League Two could follow, with Kevin De Bruyne having to play out the remainder of his contract with Pools"

There is also talk of City being retrospectively stripped of one or several of their league titles as a consequence. However I think this unlikely. Forgetting about the claims and compensation requests from other clubs that may have lost out, as well as rewriting the history books in an Orwellian fashion, it would be an absolute farce to administer.

I am sure that there would be be dancing in the streets in both Liverpool and on the other side of Manchester, where they have clubs which were both runners-up at the time, if they were awarded City's Premiership titles. Mind, United fans might reflect that Liverpool would be the greater beneficiary of two additional titles to United's one, so perhaps they would prefer to let sleeping dogs lie.

If City are found guilty through a Committee/Tribunal rather than a kangaroo court, of pulling a fast one with regards to their sources of income, then, depending on the severity of their misdeed, I would be in favour of either a massive multi-million-pound fine or an equally massive points deduction. In the worst-case scenario, a double relegation to League Two could follow, with Kevin De Bruyne having to play out the remainder of his contract with Pools. Mind he would have to play out of his skin to get Featherstone's shirt off his back!

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Do you know anyone, apart from those who are behind it, who thinks that VAR is a good thing? No. Me neither.

That, then, should be the end of the debate and the whole thing should be scrapped. The only piece of technology needed in my view is that which confirms that the ball has fully crossed the line. We don't need anything for offsides, retrospective penalties and the like. Leave that to the referee and his team; that is what he is there for in the first place. 

I can see a long-term goal of the people behind VAR being that matches are played without any match officials at all. That is one goal I would l definitely like to see being disallowed.

Although I am not a big fan of Premiership football, VAR is ruining the game. It is a total farce. Games halted for minutes on end whilst decisions are made. Players score then wonder momentarily if their strike will stand owing to something that happened a quarter of an hour earlier down the other end of the pitch. All I can say is: thank goodness that, as yet, it hasn't filtered down to the lower leagues.
"it has worked well enough for coming up to 200 years and if it ain't broke, why fix it?"

Cripes, we have had some terrible incompetent referees at the Vic over the years but I would rather take my chance with one of them than a couple of chancers viewing the match in a Portakabin some 200 miles away from the field of play. I would not disagree that it has been responsible for some correct decisions being made but having to wait several minutes for the decision kills the flow and pace of the game. In short the few benefits are outweighed by its disadvantages.

I think the worst incident I saw, albeit technically correct, was in the recent match between Burnley and Bournemouth. Bournemouth for a while were pinned back in their own box but the pressure was taken off with a long clearance down to the other end of the pitch and in a jif, bang, the ball was nestling in the back of the Burnley net. The relegation-threatened Bournemouth players celebrated with delight and, whilst walking back to the centre circle they learned to their disbelief that the goal would not stand and to add insult to injury, owing to an earlier handball, Burnley were to be awarded a penalty. Psychologically that must have killed Bournemouth, especially when Burnley converted the resulting penalty.

A few weeks earlier Liverpool had played Manchester City and something similar happened. Two handballs within seconds of each other in the Liverpool box, one of which was a nailed on penalty for City, for which their players appealed. Liverpool went down the other end and scored a quite spectacular goal from some 30 yards out. The goal stood. Was VAR looked at? Who knows? I rather suspect that the VAR people perhaps erred on the side of caution rather than disallow this goal at ...Anfield. ...I rest my case.

The main problem with VAR is, assuming that the people who monitor it are indeed human, that they are no different to the men in black (green yellow or even pink) on the pitch. They, like the rest of us, will make mistakes; it is only natural. You could ask a dozen people who witnessed the same car crash and you would get twelve different versions of the event and the same applies to referees as well as the VAR people.

Finally, let's play Devil's advocate, fellow Poolies. The choice is yours - One Pro and One Con regarding VAR:

Pro: If VAR had been in situ at Cardiff at the time of Pools' play-off final against Sheffield Wednesday, would Westy have been sent off and the subsequent penalty awarded in Wednesday's favour?

Con: Would Geoff Hurst's and England's third goal in the 1966 World Cup Final that did/did not cross the line have stood?

Answers on the back of a house brick please.

VAR is far from perfect, but my view is: leave it all to the man in the middle and his two linos. Although not without controversy, it has worked well enough for coming up to 200 years and if it ain't broke, why fix it?

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Getting the Needle


In the January edition we featured a photo from an old Football League Review magazine from 1968 sent in by Dave - the Cheshire Poolie. Now we've raided it again for an article which is somehow topical at the moment, if not especially helpful.

Thanks again to Dave for the magazine. We got no response when the earlier article appeared so we'll ask again if anybody recognised any of the Pools ballboys of 1968 who appeared in that photo which we reproduced here in January.

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Taking the Wind Out of Their Sails

Match report by BILL THE BIRO

Solihull Moors 0 Pools 1 (National League)
Tuesday 3 March 2020
Damson Park

For the third consecutive year I was looking forward to seeing Pools play at Solihull, not least because we’d won on the previous two visits.

So with it being the nearest club in the National League to where I live, I arranged another footy outing with Shedrick and the man off the telly, to go the 18 miles up to Damson Park. Unfortunately, that was the weekend of Storm Dennis or some such, and despite Solihull’s best efforts and a lot of wishful thinking on their part, I wasn’t surprised to find that the game was called off early on the Saturday morning. It was subsequently rearranged to follow the Notts County and Boreham Wood games, so all three were potential 6-pointers. 

Most people will tell you that Solihull is (assuming they have any idea of where it is at all) a suburb of Birmingham but, as anyone in Solihull will tell you, it's a completely separate town, and definitely not part of Brum ...unless you look at a map! And to prove it, its road name signs are green whereas Brummie ones are white. So there!

The Solihull road I lived in for a year had the border arbitrarily drawn across it a few doors up, so we drank in a pub on the Brummie side, and showed solidarity with Brum by pronouncing it "Solly Ull" rather than the "So Lee Hal" preferred by the stuck-up Silhillians (as they call themselves.) I don't know why 'Silhillian' and 'Solihull' are so different though. Perhaps the place was originally called "Silly Hill"!

It has come to my attention that some Poolies think that on account of it being near to the Jaguar factory, Solihull Moors used to be called Solihull Motors - or even that it still is, but with a silent 't'! Sadly, the truth is that Solihull Borough FC merged with Moor Green FC in 2007 and merged their names - like Rushden and Diamonds a few years back - remember them?

This time Shedrick cried off due to having a virus (not THE virus – or at least I hope not!) so it was only the man off the telly and I who wended our way north. Our trip was carefully scheduled to allow us to have a pint before kickoff in the Moors’ rather nice bar, which is better than you’d find in most Football League grounds – probably because it wouldn’t look nice for very long when subjected to Football League crowds.

Anyway, that plan got changed for several reasons. Firstly the satnav overruled my local knowledge and took us the way it wanted to go, then I counted wrong at one command to ‘take the fourth exit’, and when we got to Damson Park and its car park which we previously had no problem getting in to, a sign said it was full, so we had to drive down the road and park at the end of a long row of cars that had beaten us to it, then walk back to the ground.

Then we went to the away turnstile where (unlike at Boreham Wood on Saturday) you couldn’t pay, so we had to walk down and queue at the ticket office before traipsing back to the away entrance. There we were each fitted with a wristband as used at festivals. We were told it was to do with there having been some crowd trouble at Saturday’s home game with Dover (funny, that!), but we were too busy looking at our watches to ask any more, although we were informed that the ground was segregated so we’d have to use the ‘away’ bar. We never found the away bar, but we wouldn’t have had time to drink a pint anyway. Ah, well!
"We were told it was to do with there having been some crowd trouble at Saturday’s home game with Dover (funny, that!)"

Solihull have had the builders in since we last were at Damson Park and now their home bar is fronted by a full-length grandstand, making the place look a bit more like a Football League ground, although for all I know that nice bar may have been ripped out in the process. I guess we’ll now never know!

So kickoff arrived and Pools’ team was once again unchanged. The first half was fairly even with both sides having their moments, both good and bad. A sloppy pass forward was intercepted but Killip made a good save to redeem the situation. Pools probably edged it early on but Solihull came more into it as half time approached, although neither side really looked like scoring.

We didn't bother trying again to find the bar but had hot drinks from the away refreshment shed. The sugar on the table was in its open ice-cream tub looking distinctly unhygienic and rather grey, so in the dim light the various lumps dotting its surface looked eerily like miniature icebergs. However, needs must, so we ignored any hygiene concerns and helped ourselves.

We then did a tour of the away end looking for anyone we knew, and found Rob Cocker *, who I've been chatting to at away matches for years, and who supports both teams which used to pay at The Victoria Ground, Stoke City and Pools, although he lives in the Potteries.

Pools were on top in the second half, but still without posing much threat to the Solihull goal although Gime, who had a relatively quiet game, fluffed a tap-in chance and Solihull too failed to take several chances and also hit a post. The decider came from sub Aidan Keena, who, having run about for 10 minutes to little effect, found himself with a chance he put away.

The decent turnout of Poolies (and drum) then turned up the volume to see out the game, but in added time they were silenced when Southam-Hales was knocked out cold after a clash of heads, taking a good few minutes to recover.

Overall it was a good team performance and it may be unfair to single anyone out for special praise. So Pools, having collected seven points in ten days from three teams above them, found themselves on the same points as three other teams but unfortunately weren’t one of the two that were in the playoff zone.

It’ll be great if they can keep up the run and overcome the advantage of games in hand that some of the competition have and it certainly makes a change at this time of the year to be nervously looking at the top end of the table rather than the bottom.

* Rob Cocker also gets a mention on the Any Other Business page.

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A Fair Return

Match report by ALREET

Boreham Wood 1 Pools 1 (National League)
Saturday 29 February 2020
Meadow Park

My second 'true' home game in a month so I trotted off around the corner to catch the local bus. Standing there in bright sunshine, the picture changed dramatically as the bus approached Watford when a huge black cloud appeared overhead. The inevitable rain came pouring down, closely followed by an enormous bombardment of hailstones, so dense, that visibility was reduced dramatically and the ground disappeared under what appeared to be a carpet of snow. All within about twenty minutes.

Now, I have lived all my life on the North West outskirts of London and had visited Borehamwood on many occasions to play cricket, have a look at a small colony of around forty Monk Parakeets and so on but it was only when I went there to see Pools a couple of years ago that I realized the football club were actually Boreham Wood, named after the original spelling of the town. Walking up to the roundabout prior to the ground, I noticed a road sign directing traffic to "Borehamwood Football Club". Oh, well.

Despite the home side wearing all white, Pools wore their green change kit and the match started with us attacking the home end. An early pass back to Killip was wide of the mark and despite his dive, he was unable to prevent it going out for a corner. This was cleared but immediately returned and a powerful header from their 'lump' (21) was tipped on to the post by Killip where the rebound was gleefully hit into the net. Despite heated protests for offside from the Pools players, the ref allowed the goal to stand. A disastrous start in such an important game.

We then conceded a free kick about 25 yards from goal but Killip easily caught the ball. We then got up the other end and won a corner but the inswinger went straight to their keeper. A great through ball out wide from Harker looked promising but the cross was blocked. We then built a good move on our right but the ball across their box found Kitching whose powerful drive cleared the bar. This was better from Pools and they had another shot deflected over the bar. Wood's dangerous No.11, Marsh, played a quick ball through but their No.9, Tshimanga didn't make anything of it.
"...casually passed it low down to Killip's right who took a swig out of his bottle as he waited to dive down to make the save."

The home side were applying pressure once again and a header from yet another corner flashed just wide of our right post. This was closely followed by another corner from their left which had an identical finish. Up to this point, I don't think that Pools had cleared a single corner. There followed a scramble in the home goal with their keeper falling on the ball. The 'hulk' put in an appearance wide on the right and, from looking large at a distance, appeared enormous up close. It was only then that I recognized him as Matt Rhead (ex Lincoln). Considering his size, a mere brush from a Pools defender sent him into a belated dive for which the term "theatrical" couldn't have done justice.

On the far side, Kitching and Touré combined to set up Shelton but the keeper was equal to his effort. The ref blew for half-time and Pools left the pitch probably thinking that being only a goal down was being kind to them.

The second half had hardly started when Pools, attacking the Poolie end, got the ball into the home area and it fell to Touré who flashed a fierce left-footed shot past the keeper for our equalizer. That was more like it but it wasn't to last long.

The home side attacked again and a ball knocked in to our box was handled by Featherstone, I think, and the ref pointed to the spot with hardly a whimper from Pools' defenders. Thomas, their highly impressive No.14,  was given the honour and after an extremely slow walk up to the ball, casually passed it low down to Killip's right who took a swig out of his bottle as he waited to dive down to make the save.  One of the worst penalties I have ever seen. (I shouldn't really scoff though as it reminded me of a similar case where I ended up with a red face. My excuse was that the pitch was a mud bath and I changed my mind and tried to give the ball some extra wellie - hardly the case on Saturday).

The Wood kept up the momentum and smacked a shot over our bar. Hawkes came on to replace Molyneux who had been very quiet all afternoon before the Tshimanga was similarly replaced although he had contributed a lot to BW's cause. Pools cleared a home attack but the ball landed at the feet of a home forward who rattled our bar with a vicious volley from around 18 yards. They then had a goal ruled out for offside before a ball out found the galloping M S-H inside the home box. He appeared to receive a blatant shove but the ref saw things differently despite blowing up for virtually every minor push since the kick-off. This was in direct contrast to the linesman on our side who barely spotted an offside in the first half starting with their goal.

Touré made a mazy run down our left and won a corner but it was taken comfortably by their keeper. Harker took on three home defenders but lacked any support before being replaced by Holohan. This saw Touré move inside and take up a central position with Donaldson pushing forward on the right. The latter was quickly into his stride and a smart ball through to the overlapping M S-H saw his cross only just clear the far post. Woods won a good tackle on their left but the following shot was easily gathered by Killip. The last action saw the home side waste yet another corner before the final whistle sounded.

A draw was a fair return from a game which saw the home side in the ascendancy during the first half while we mounted a spirited response after the break. They employed a very effective front three who always looked a threat as they attacked us with balls up to the bullying Rhead, closely supported by their nippy Tshimanga and Marsh. An added threat came from Thomas with his powerful runs from deep on the left flank causing us all sorts of problems. I was surprised that we didn't see much of this after the break although he looked equally accomplished in defence. I doubt that he will be wearing a BW shirt for much longer.

We, on the other hand, had plenty of possession in the first half but never really got going and lacked the hosts' pace and directness. Our equalizer obviously gave us a lift and we became far more involved in proceedings. Getting on the front foot, we were able to attack down the flanks and gave as good as we got. Liddle and Odusina had a difficult afternoon while M S-H and Kitching were finding more space to get forward as the game progressed. Likewise, Featherstone, who had been quiet and largely marked out of the game in the early stages. Harker worked hard with little reward while Donaldson and Shelton found more room and Touré began to show more of his fancy footwork.

A nice touch at the final whistle when Donaldson led some of the team around the perimeter to shake hands with the departing Poolies.

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A Proper Game of Football

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 2 Notts County 0 (National League)
Saturday 22 February 2020
Victoria Park

It was a bloody cold day for the fans today yet 3882 braved the elements to see Pools put Notts County to the sword. I should really say Featherstone did the deed but this was probably one of the best games of football we have seen in a while. 

As one fan said to me after the game “Don’t hold your breath!” I would say the way we are shaping up in recent games, we are a vastly improved side and I am coming to the conclusion now that we just might make the play-offs. As to whether we can go all the way I might just hold my breath.

Today's game was a “proper game of football” in the sense that both teams went for it.  It was just a shame that the ref had the Ditchburn chuntering at half time over his lack of sharing the fifty-fifty challenges, He was more eighty-twenty, just leaning slightly towards the opposition. By the end of the game the Ditch was even praising Mr Speedie after his first visit to the Vic. "As we won, he can come again!"

The opposition turned us round in the first half giving us the strong breeze and we hardly ever saw County all the half as Pools pegged them back. I suppose it is a fact that when the team is playing well this lifts the players but we seem to have improved in all departments and are playing some very good football. Players are starting to shine with confidence. In fact Kitching, one of our most-improved players in recent games even seems to have grown a foot higher too!
"we seem to have improved in all departments and are playing some very good football"

But as it was looking in the first half it could have been so different, as we know from the past; we pummel the opposition and they nick one on the break. But to be honest it was a really bad day at the office for County today as we battered them all the first half but despite testing the keeper through shots from Touré and Molyneux that were blocked and Odusina going inches wide with a fantastic header from a corner, they defended very well to thwart the Pools attack.

I had just said to the person behind me after the break that we could really do with an early goal to settle this, and up pops Featherstone with a fantastic free kick. There was some debate at the time as to whether he meant it or got lucky. It was only when he repeated the task shortly afterwards that we realized he had floated two balls over “DELIBERATELY’ and scored two goals which won him the Man-of-the-Match award.

Challinor might just be the man to take us back into the League, he has a good eye for a player and I would not fault any of his selections after the recent run. But I am still holding my breath this term but with the progress so far I think I would expect it next time round.

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A Great Three Points

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 2 Aldershot 0 (National League)
Saturday 8 February 2020
Victoria Park

I expected this game to be off today looking at the weather forecast of very strong gales for Saturday to Tuesday and just like most weather forecasts it was wrong. Hartlepool has a special weather pattern that is totally different to the rest of the country and we normally get the exact opposite of the forecasts. 

Today I would admit it was a little breezy, but the sun was shining and it looked a good day for footy. 

I had spent most of my Saturday morning retrieving a drone from a tree in Catcote Road. The process of destroying the old EMS school is taking forever as the place was riddled with asbestos. The daughter took a drone to record the event and, despite my warning that  it was a bit too windy for a small drone, she set it down in a tree. We borrowed a ladder from the workmen and I borrowed a set of drain rods and did the right thing - I sent her up the tree. But we did get the drone back in one piece. Nowt to do with football I know but I have to get the word count up and you do get the benefit of a picture.

The endangered Hartlepool
Tree-Climbing Sprog,
who luckily survived the danger

The visitors took off at a good pace and faded just as quickly as the new-look Pools, playing some good football, pushed them back into their own half. Molyneux, making his debut start, snatched a goal from the cross of new boy Harker who was a handful all afternoon. Just the start we needed.

Pools looked very comfortable on the ball with all the players getting stuck in. The visitors were an average side and did not bother Pools at all in the first half and a Molyneux corner was headed home by Shelton to make it two-nil to the Hartlepool.

A sad incident happened just before half time when a winger for the Shots, racing down the Millhouse side, went down in a challenge from Donaldson. A few fans and even me thought the lad just stayed down because he had lost the ball but it became clear he was injured. The ref took a while to stop the game and Pools' Odusina put the ball out to draw attention to the lad's plight. The physio, a girl about four foot tall, treated the lad and tried to help him up. A steward also helped but the lad looked as if he was walking on a broken ankle and there was no stretcher to be seen.
"The crowd in the Town End were howling at the ref and the bench to get a stretcher on"

The crowd in the Town End were howling at the ref and the bench to get a stretcher on as the lad was struggling to walk round the pitch. He walked from eighteen yards to the corner then hobbled to the goal before the stretcher was brought out from under the stand. This was a disgrace for a club our size and the lad was obviously very badly injured. Would this have happened if it was one of our players? Aldershot even tried to send two of their subs round to try and help the lad. A black mark for Pools on this one.

Second half, with the wind picking up, Pools were now struggling to get anything going but defended really well against a poor attack. Pools did get a few chances on the break as the visitors pressed for a goal but Harker, who had a good game, missed a couple and Mafuta hit one over to Morrisons and after some great work Touré was very unlucky to skim the post after some magic pace and footwork in his approach.

A great three points for Pools. Tinkler, a target for Pools, playing for the Shots was not that impressive but he was playing against a better side. Some good performances and some lads really improving their contribution to the game. Kitching is probably the most improved this season and was my Man-of-the-Match today.

Front Page

Any Other Business


Things have been looking up on the playoffs front and Pools now find themselves tantalisingly close. While some recent successes may not have been 100% convincing, nevertheless it's the points that matter, and Pools keep racking them up.

We've been looking at the upcoming fixtures and Pools potentially have one of the easier run-ins, playing only two of the teams in the top half whereas Barnet have to play seven, and Notts County have to play Harrogate no less than three times, two of them being the home and away legs of the FA Trophy semi-final. No doubt they'll agree to play their reserve or youth teams in those games but it all adds to the pressure, though easy-looking fixture lists never quite work out that way. It's going to be an interesting couple of months!

Billy's Contract has again been out and about with his camera ...or maybe just his phone.

This time he spent a couple of hours visiting his old haunts on the Headland, and when he happened upon that venerable old Headland institution which is possibly more talked about than any other, he found it open, and felt he had to take this picture.

Verrills is probably the best-known chippie in all of Hartlepool, and gets more mentions in Monkey Business, Pools message boards and the like, than all the rest of the town's fast food outlets put together. And it's been around for decades. In fact some say that the monkey's last meal came from Verrills (he refused the malt vinegar, preferring the red wine variety, apparently.)

Now the cause of Verrills' fame isn't its longevity, the quality of its chips or even its iconic position, standing alone, separate from any other shops. No, what makes it different is the perception that it's rarely open, which is what gets it talked about most.

Billy's Contract points out that the picture shows a sign in the window which says "Staff needed (must be over 18)", and he notes that it fails to mention the obscure opening hours.

Well, we can now reveal that Verrills does indeed have regular opening hours, even if we can't verify whether they always stick to them, as there's another sign visible on the door showing them. So here they are:
Monday: 1-1:15pm *
Tuesday-Friday: 11am-1:15pm and 4pm-5:45pm
Saturday:  11am-1:15pm

It may be that some people might be used to chippies being open until 2pm and throughout the evening 6 days a week (sometimes 7), but not on the Headland they aren't, thus probably giving rise to Verrills' reputation among non-Headlanders for rarely being open.
(And I have to say the only meal I've ever bought there - I found it open once and had to try it - was very good!)

[*  "1" may be a mistake and perhaps should be "11am" ...but this is Verrills we're talking about - Ed.]

Long-time Pools (and Stoke City) fan Rob
Cocker has been getting himself some headlines over the last few years for one of his other hobbies - visiting as many pubs as possible.

So far he's visited more than 11,000 on his travels, and obviously following two clubs in different divisions is an advantage in his quest. You  could just Google him or you can read more about Rob and his hobby (when he had only visited a mere 10,000 pubs) here:

When asked which are the best pubs he's visited, he says he always includes The Rat Race ale house (the tiny one at Hartlepool Railway Station) among them.