State of Play


With the month of January behind us we still find Pools in second spot of this God-forsaken league.

During this long and dreary month, none of our rivals were able to steal a march on our loss at Weymouth as well, despite the free Saturday Pools had owing to their non-involvement in the FA Trophy, and who failed to capitalise with their games in hand.

I accept that no team has a divine right to beat any other but I still am unable to understand how we managed to be beaten by Weymouth, one of the worst sides in the league.

What at first greatly annoyed me was that Dave Challinor in his post-match comments felt that we should have earned a draw.
"our midfield persistently passed the ball backwards so often that Ben Killip saw more of the ball than Luke Armstrong and Rhys Oates combined."

After I had calmed down and had time to reflect on the manager's assessment, he was probably right in what he said as in truth we did not really threaten Weymouth at all. In a perfect world we should have put Weymouth to the sword but instead of going for the jugular we passed the ball around the pitch, going nowhere in particular, which allowed the opposition to grow in confidence and lose their fear factor. In fact Pools only looked a threat when they went down to ten men. At the time even if we had managed a draw I would have been disappointed but when we look back on the season this defeat could be viewed as the one that possible could have cost us, don't laugh, ever the optimist, the title or, assuming the league programme is completed, a play off spot.

Similarly, against Sutton, our midfield persistently passed the ball backwards so often that Ben Killip saw more of the ball than Luke Armstrong and Rhys Oates combined.

In the last quarter of the game against Weymouth Nicky Featherstone on one occasion, instead of going forward, turned around and made yet another back pass to Ben Killip which turned into a superb inch-perfect pass that landed at the feet of the onrushing Weymouth centre forward. Luke Armstrong could only dream of receiving a pass like that from our midfield.

Whilst I expected that we would comfortably beat Weymouth - after all Darlo did in the cup - I thought the opposite about the visit of Sutton United. Under three different managers Pools have failed to beat Sutton since we joined the National League. My heart tells me that past results count for nothing and tomorrow is another day. However my brain tells me that Sutton are an established non-league club and are a very good side who at present are winning a lot of matches.

It was a cagey first half with each side trying to get the measure of the other and Pools in many respects played the same game as they did against Weymouth with numerous pass-backs from the whole back line to the keeper. It was only when Pools started to run at Sutton that we seemed to cause them any concern and as I have said before in previous editions of MB, cut out the slow build-ups out and attack teams with pace and it will yield results. To paraphrase Corporal Jones from Dad's Army, he might say. 'They don't like it up 'em Captain Challinor'.

A defeat against Sutton would have been a disaster, putting The U's in second place and a point above Pools with two games in hand.

At some stage I can see Torquay going through a sticky patch and dropping points and, with luck, along with Notts County, Sutton United, Maidstone and Stockport, the latter of whom I think will win the league; they all may get a little distracted with their involvement in the FA Trophy.

This could lead to some of the participating clubs involved having fixture congestion at a later date and may see them playing two games or possibly three games a week in order to catch up.

To that end I am pleased that Pools were knocked out of the Trophy in the early rounds and I can now appreciate why the leading Premiership clubs see the League and FA Cups as unnecessary distractions in their quest of winning Premiership or Championship league glory. (You can see at this stage I am clutching at straws!)

The only consolation Pools could offer if they do not gain automatic promotion or a play off place, will possibly be seeing them finish the season in their highest-ever position in - as I previously called it - "This God-forsaken League."

Deep Joy.

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