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Pools See Off the Pirates

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 1 Bristol Rovers 0 (League Two)
Saturday 11 September 2021
Victoria Park

The visit of Joey Barton's Bristol was always going to be a tough game as their form was so poor, two wins two draws and a loss from their five games, so we got what we expected from a Barton side who said his team will fight and battle for every ball.

Hartlepool United climbed to fourth in the League Two table with a dogged performance that saw them defeat Rovers 1-0. A first Pools goal for Jamie Sterry was the difference, with the home defence once again holding firm.

With a Joey Barton side visiting the Vic today and his pre-match comments of "We will fight and battle for every ball,” we knew it was going to be a tough game. Pools were also a couple of players down with both Holohan and Ferguson out and with the recent loss of Burey it was going to be tough game all right.

We were quite pleased at the start of the game to see the lady ref who on her last visit was voted one of the best of the recent bunch. Today she had an off day and let the visitors run riot; some of the tackles would have impressed both Mick McManus and Jackie Pallo had they been around to see it. OK, we all like to see a tough tackle when it is warranted but some of the stuff they served up today was criminal, but I am glad to say the Pools lads did get a few stiff ones in. So much for referees letting a game flow as the new directive calls it but that has to work for both teams.

The visitors were a big, strong side but strength is not the be all and end all of the game. Taylor, the centre back, was about nine foot tall but will never make a decent defender; he jumped in on players and just bundled them over time and time again. Saunders, the ex-Pools player, thought he just had to turn up at the Vic and lie on the ground and the game was all his. Not seen a winger like this one for a long time, but today they had two. Finlay was the other and one who was on the ground more times than the ball and whinged at every decision that went against him.

The game got off to a brisk start with Saunders going close but hitting the side netting. On his next run he got past Byrne just wide of the box and Byrne took one for the team as he grabbed him by the arm and spun him down to the turf.

Kicking towards the Rink End Pools started to get a slight edge on the visitors. Liddle once again spraying long diagonal balls to the wings set up Shelton who hit directly at the keeper who managed to block the shot with one hand then, with the aid of a defender, smothered the ball.

Their no 16 was wild in the challenge and took one from Olomola and was left writhing on the ground as Pools made their way to the Rink End. As the ball was cleared he jumped up, tried to kick the ball towards the Town End, failed, then fell down injured again.
"...to be replaced by another ageing striker, whose combined age must have been eighty plus and proving the point that strikers are hard to come by."

Just before the interval Olomola had a chance. He dithered a bit when he should have scored, was challenged when he went for the shot and the keeper tipped it over.

In the second half Pools weathered a slight rise in performance from the visitors but with their ageing striker Leon Clarke having gone off first half to be replaced by another ageing striker, whose combined ages must have been eighty plus and proving the point that strikers are hard to come by. Both Goodwin and Shelton had chances but no real threat on the keeper.

On sixty five minutes there was crowd applause for another Pools fan we have lost recently, Graham Dobson, who I can’t say I knew but he was well respected by both sets of fans and some of the players from both sides.

Molyneux tried to bend a curler around the nine foot defender Taylor but was unsuccessful.

Man-of-the-Match Jamie Sterry deserved the accolade with a first-class display of football throughout the game, capped by his first goal for the club. He came down the Mill House side just outside the box, robbed a defender, skated past two tackles and hit a beautiful left foot shot into the net. From then on Pools were cruising and looked a lot more confident in their task. Another tick in the right box for the manager and a great three points for the team.

The North West corner once again had the Vic bouncing without the Irish midfielder, and had to rely on the "Here we go, here we go, here we go / Challinor is better than Mourinho / Here go - o, rocking up the Football League" chant instead.

Tough old game and while the three points were deserved, we still need a striker. If anyone knows what Andy Carroll would want then let us know - he would fill the Vic.


Pools Don't See Off the Grecians

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 0 Exeter City 0 (League Two)
Saturday 25 September 2021
Victoria Park

I was a little apprehensive about the game today as for some reason I confused Exeter with Wrexham. Ok, wrong division but that did not deter me. I was convinced right up until I got to the ground - another senior moment.

The wife says I have got dementia and I forget everything these days. I said "Ok but I still remember your name, George" then forgot to duck and got a thick ear.

The manager had finally signing his contract, which I had been a little nervous about, but according to his statement after the signing he said there was never a problem, just dotting the ‘I’s and crossing the 'T's.

Sad news this week with three ex-Pools employees dying: Tony Toms the ex-marine who trained Pools by turning them into soldiers, his former boss, Lenny "The Lion" Ashurst our former player-manager and ex-Sunderland legend and Alan Fox was the Pools centre half.

"A manager who has never won a game since he signed his contract" I hear the opposition managers saying, [ok, tongue in cheek comment] but I think they have a lot more respect than that for Dave Challinor. Reading some comments on various messageboards, some of our own fans have to give their heads a shake. The time Challinor has spent at the club has been the most exciting for years and we as fans should thank our lucky stars that he has not been lured away by a ‘bigger club.’
"...the ball was hanging around too long in our box and should have been cleared easily, which it would have been had Liddle been there."

Todays game was just as I expected: a tough end-to-end game or should I say box-to-box game as both defences were resolute.

Exeter turned us round at the kick-off, probably on the advice of Padraig Amond who left us for a bigger club but did not get a start today. It was a brisk start by the makeshift Pools side; our stalwart Gary Liddle was out with tendonitis and our Irish midfielder was still absent along with our wing back David Ferguson.

The boss made three changes, bringing in Jones, Hendrie and Daly, who all played very well against a strong side. I say strong in the physical sense as they battered us at times with some crude tackling. One instance of this came in the second half when Fondop ran onto a ball near to the Town End byline. He dropped on the ball during a tackle and had the ball covered with both legs and was trying to get up and control the ball and a defender started hacking through his thighs to get to the ball yet the ref gave a free kick to the visitors. Fondop got very little throughout the game from the official even though he was illegally wrestled to the ground in nearly every challenge.

Pools were the brighter side at the start and really unsettled the visitors with some good runs into their half. Sterry made a great run down the Clarence Road side and his low cross caused panic in their defence but the resulting corner was cleared. Sterry was straight back for more but once again he was unlucky with his shot being blocked. Molyneux was next up as he latched onto a ball from midfield but his shot was scuffed under a challenge and the keeper managed to scramble it away. He was luckier on his next sortie as he raced onto a long ball, turned the defender and curled a low shot into the net which set us one up which we throughly deserved.

The visitors were stung into action and pressed us all the way up to half time when they hit back with a good header but the ball was hanging around too long in our box and should have been cleared easily, which it would have been had Liddle been there.

The second half was a dour affair with both teams playing less football and more long clearances, the visitors becoming more physical and both teams just looking for the end of the game to come. They were two teams on the same points and looked to be of equal ability despite our loss of regular players. With a full side I think we could have done a job against this also-unbeaten-at-home side and taken all three points.

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