Date: 17th February 2016 at 12:02pm
Written by:

Hartlepool United v Notts County, 16th February 2016 by Billy Zinc.

After enthusing about the win against Yeovil, a friend reminded me about a Swallow and the Summer. Don`t you just hate people who are right. Listening to Hignett prematch, he`d already written this match off, saying he just wanted it out of the way so he can work on what`s wrong with the side. As if as a response the team went out of their way to illustrate its failings, producing a first half performance as poor, or even poorer than anything the fans have been forced to endure this season.

Unlike the southern clubs who have kicked Pools off the Park, Notts concentrated on playing the game taking took only a few minutes to establish their domination with a Jon Stead goal. Ten minutes the both home side and fans were stunned when a second goal went in. I was quite surprised to learn that Notts are only a few places above us, their play was better than any of the top teams who have visited here. We played like a team already defeated for the rest of the half and I don`t think anyone, on or off the pitch thought the game was anything more than a damage limitation exercise. In most of our defeats we`ve seen one or two players standing out, like Magnay in defence or Woods in mid-field, but tonight`s first half we saw nothing. Paynter wasn`t in the game, Jame`s few touches saw him, predictably, turn his back on his opponent and stick his backside out while he tried to do something fancy, but as always he invariably and continually ended up on his back side. He`d be better using his speed to skin the opposition penetrate their defences, rather than trying to shield the ball, giving time for the defences to re-group, eventually ending up on his backside with the opposition then in possession. Refs are, understandably and increasingly, ignoring tackles perpetrated against him, as he is going nowhere and doing nothing with the ball. His performance prompted a guy behind me who, on one occasion that Luke fell on his backside, shouted “you can`t play football laying on the ground”. The remark attracted a bit of amusement with his mates, which then prompted him to repeat it every time someone hit the deck.

To add to my woes, my half time Bovril was spoilt when I had to use a shell of a bic biro to stir it up, having forgotten to bring a spoon. I get 8 cups from Home Bargains for about 90 pence and take a little flask which fills 2 of them, somewhat cheaper than that available from the concessions.

The lads came out much brighter in the second half, maybe Notts sat back thinking the points were already in the bank. Playing bright, attractive, attacking football, we`d had several chances before Jake Grey gave us a life line. Grey is always ready to have a go, and rarely suffers a bad game. When the previously anonymous Paynter equalised, a few minutes later, the home crowd thought we would go on to win the match. Pools stayed on top but couldn`t find the winning blow. By the last quarter, just when we thought a draw was a fair result, the final twist was to come, after Paynter fluffed the easiest chance of the game, Jon Stead scored the winner for the visitors.

We paid dearly for a poor, no worse than that, diabolical, first half performance in which we conceded two goals. The crowd were lifted in the second half, only to be gutted by Jon Stead`s winner. Stead has had a mixed career, which at 32 still has a few years in it. He is playing well and always seems to give all to his clubs, why haven`t they fading stars (Beardsley, Howard, Harewood for example) that we have employed, done the same?

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