Hartlepool v Oxford, November 28th 2015
Hartlepool v Oxford, November 28th 2015 by Billy Zinc.
Rodney Marsh, after defecting to North American League football in the 70s, was quoted as saying "English Football is a grey game, played by grey players on grey days, watched by grey people". It was certainly a grey, rainy day today, and, before kick off, I feared the rest of the quote may also come to pass. But, thankfully, once again I was wrong. The only greys today were the Millhouse Side Linesman (sorry assistant referee), the score and the name of one of Hartlepool's players. The assistant referee's decisions were so bad that, in the second half, Pools fans were even shouting at his unfair flagging of Oxford's players being offside. I did point out to several fans that he was actually doing us the favour at this point.
Pools started the game with purpose and sent a screamer just outside Oxford's post in the first minute of play. The home side dominated the first half and played as a team for a, refreshing, change. Oxford barely saw the ball in the first half hour, but ominously came more into the game after that. I always worry when we have the upper hand but fail to capitalise on it, in every game the pendulum swings, sometimes briefly but always enough to allow opponents to profit. Although Pools played well there was something blatantly obviously missing, namely a forward line. We had forward runs from midfield, when goals could have been produced, but no bite to the forward line. In truth we didn't have a forward line, we had loanee Mandron aimlessly lingering up front, but he was, painfully, too slow to catch most of the balls that came forward, the odd one that he claimed were soon lost by him with or without an opposing player intervening.
The second half again saw Pools start brightly, but with the same failings and Oxford looked sharper as the game progressed. Carson made several important saves but was helpless against the shot that broke the deadlock. Pools had just taken a corner when the ball was spirited forward by the opposition allowing their substitute to strike home. The second half saw Mandron's only contribution to the game when, back to goal, he laid the ball onto the advancing Walker, the latter's shot only just clearing the Oxford goal. The introduction of Bingham and to a lesser extent Oyenuga, had by then, put a bit more bite into Pools forward line, but after Oxford's goal the home team seem to accept defeat and allowed Oxford to play the class of football that is expected by a team at the top of the league. In both halves the Oxford no. 8 showed flashes of skill, but drifted in and out of the game, during one late first half move he seemed to beat every one of pools players, prompting me to wonder where he'd been up to then, and where he went afterwards.
On leaving I heard one or two fans saying that we were unlucky, I disagreed with them as, however well a team plays, and we probably played well enough to share the points, they need to show ambition, especially when playing at home. Leaving a lone, slow of foot, and inexperienced loanee up front doesn't seem to me to be a route to victory, as today's match went some way to prove.