Date: 28th February 2016 at 5:54pm
Written by:

Hartlepool United v Northampton Town, 27th February 2016 by Billy Zinc.

Approaching the ground I could hear cheers and intermittent clapping from the Rink end which, although once holding our staunchest supporters, now houses the away fans. The fans seemed already celebrating today`s win and the promotion, they were guaranteed, on Football Focus at lunch time. Although, given their league position, I was quite surprised that only a couple of hundred had made the journey from Northampton, on what was a good day for both travelling to and watching the game. I must admit, pre kick off, that their domination of the league and our poor showings this season had led me to be less than optimistic about the outcome for our lads.

I`ll start with the near end as on 85 mins as after a rare foul, but none the less bookable, by the Hartlepool home team the, the now frustrated and nervous away fans (who`d seen their heroes played off the park) broke into the predictable “dirty Geordie Bastards” chant. I don`t know the married status of all the team, but the other two words showed the lack of knowledge of both geography and of football that Northampton fans possess. This chant caused me to do something I rarely do, check the stats. I note fouls against us being double of those given for us, and this has to be put in prospective by the fact that a first half stone wall penalty was denied, it was open season on Luke James again in that he never gets protection from referees and the Northampton No. 4 (who showed his nastiness outshone his footballing ability when he had a go at one of our players after they both followed a ball out of play) could have seen yellow many times over.

The game started with the Northampton players feeling as confident as their fans, with a four man attack early on. I don`t know if it was the fact that they were attacking in numbers giving our pacy wingers space, or that Hignett has done wonders with the team, but we soon started forays into the Northampton half, Thomas had their no. 2 in his back pocket. After a few minutes Northampton looking shell shocked, started the same old tactics that have seen us defeated so many times this season. The tactic being pushing and foul play, James was getting caught often and the only time they managed to dispossess Thomas was unfairly. The linesman on the mill house side did us no favours, as during the rare attacks by the visitors, as blatant offside were ignored. The official seemed to have looked at the league table before the match and decided that the visitors could do no wrong. The uninitiated certainly would have thought that the team in blue rather than the one in cissy pink were the league leaders, as pools played their best football this season.

The second half started much as the first half finished the rare attack by the visitors being started and often finished by the no 11. The Hartlepool keeper wasn`t troubled to make a save in the second half ( in truth my 3 year old granddaughter could have saved the one shot on goal that Northampton managed in the first half). Thomas attacked at will, and James managed to stay out of the way of the ruffians long enough to allow him to make a positive contribution. After our misfortunes this season I was worried that Northampton would pull something out the bag and take us with a sucker punch, but after ten wins a row their bag was completely empty. Winning so many matches in a row is impressive and shows that they could be, on another day a good team, but one also needs lady luck riding with you. She showed her face a couple of times today, once with the penalty, which wasn`t given, in the first half, and in the second half when Paynter and their goal keeper both went for a ball. The two jumped together, and after the keeper failed to hold it, neither player new where it was, but it bounced over the line the wrong side (in our point of view) of the post.

It was certainly our best 90 odd minutes of the season. Before the kick off not one home fan would have turned down a draw against the league leaders, but after a match, which saw us refusing to be bullied off the ball (as we have been so often this season) and every player not only playing to his skill but working for the team, we all went home feeling that we that we should have taken all three points. Paynter looked fitter than he`s been all season and got about a bit, having threats from two swift, skilful players like Thomas and James makes us dangerous, but Grey is also a danger that can up anywhere. The whole team played well and lent weight to the running argument that I`ve having with friends and family who say that we haven`t got good enough players, I say we have, they just weren`t being organised properly and I had doubts on some of their fitness levels.

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