Date:Thursday January 24 2013
22nd January 2013, 7:45 pm
The first thing to say is I am still a bit 'coach-lagged` after an epic 700 mile-odd round trip, so please take this into account if I drop any factual clangers. We left Dean Court at 10.45am, found ourselves at a standstill on the A34 for just under 2hrs, got to Warwick services at 3pm, made it to Hartlepool just after 7pm and got back at 10 past 4 in the morning. I then went to work today (!) and I`m now attempting to write this…
Anyway, this was my first time at Victoria Park, which is a small, compact ground with four individual stands and old-style floodlight pylons, and I quite liked it as it had a bit of character. We were very near to the pitch, but viewing was impeded a bit by some quite wide supporting pillars in the away end, including one right in front of the goal. The mince pie I had was, um, ok-ish and the little bar adjacent to the catering window was closed, which was more than a little disappointing... It was great to be there though, even if it was COLD and the journey up was a nightmare (and I do hope no-one was badly injured in what looked like an horrendous lorry accident on the A34, by the way). I think they announced at the end that there were 63 of us who`d made the trip.
The team appeared to line up in a 4-1-4-1 or 4-5-1 formation, depending on your view of where Richard Hughes was playing - I couldn`t really tell from behind the goal. Jalal had come in in place of the mysteriously absent James (presumably dropped, but not even on the bench?), with a back four of Daniels, Seaborne, Elphick and Francis. Then it was Hughes (central, deep), O`Kane and Arter in the middle of midfield with Pugh (good to see him back) and McQuoid out wide, with Grabban up front.
Well, after Walsall I was expecting a reaction and in the first half we got one, as we were in complete control. It was all up at the far end from us, and the only slightly worrying thing was we were only one up at half time - McQuoid rising unchallenged to head home after about half an hour. They had a couple of chances - one clear shot on goal from their lively no 7 (Franks?) which Jalal had to parry away and the same guy put in a good cross with was glanced just wide just after we scored. Otherwise, we passed it about and around them very well, they weren`t in it and the home crowd was subdued. Half time, and it was looking like we just needed one more goal to kill the game.
So, the second half began and, before you knew it, we`d given away a goal. They got a free kick on their right which was looped/swung into the goalmouth by their player and (ok, bear in mind this was down the other end from us and I haven`t seen the replay) Jalal seemed to flap at it and produce a half-hearted semi-punch/palm which put it on a plate for their guy to head in at close range. For my money Jalal should have caught it or punched it a mile. I was astonished when my mate phoned me after the game and said the Solent commentators reckoned the wind had caught the ball, thus deceiving Shwan. Yeah, right.
There then followed a period of Poolie pressure as the old adage about 'goals changing games` was yet again proved right. The crowd came to life, Hartlepool came back into it and we started to fanny about a bit, playing one pass too many in our own final third a couple of times, when we actually needed to just clear the ball.
However, it all changed again & the status quo of the first half was restored when (Daniels, I think) sent in a low ball to O`Kane, who was simply tripped in the box for a clear penalty on about 60 mins. There were no complaints from the opposition - only an argument between themselves as one of their guys berated the guy who didn`t cut out the cross into the penalty area (you can see I wasn`t taking notes for a match report here, as I haven`t got a clue who any of their players were…). And talking of arguments, what is going on with our penalty takers? Is it that the first one who grabs the ball gets to take it? From what I could make out, Daniels came forward and tried to get the ball, but Grabban had already picked it up and wasn`t letting go. Anyway he (Grabban) calmly slotted it in and there followed an amicable celebratory conversation between him and Daniels, which I`m sure might not had been so friendly if the penalty had been missed.
However, as I said (and apologies for rolling out the cliché again), goals change games and suddenly the home crowd went quiet and we were back in control. Their manager made some substitutions, one of which was met by a chorus of 'you don`t know what you`re doing` and we saw it out reasonably well, although you never feel comfortable with a one goal cushion, especially if the game should`ve been put to bed long before.
All in all, an excellent three points, though. I`ve nit picked a bit (probably too much) but we were well worth the win.
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Date:Thursday January 24 2013
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