Hartlepool v Salford, 15th December
Hartlepool v Salford 15th December 2015 by Billy Zinc.
Carson's brilliant double Jimmy Montgomery style (1973 FA Cup Final), save midway into a second half dominated by Salford, made me believe, for the first time in the evening, that we could just about "nick" this match.
Salford started the match brighter than Pools, I'd hoped the defeat at the week-end and the presence of the TV would have spurred our lads on, but we got much the same menu of dysfunctional football that we'd been treated much of this season. Pools did manage three shots on target, but all we low, slow and directed at the goalkeeper from outside the box. On the other hand, for all Salford's physical dominance, I don't recall Carson being too busy. Pools fans were somewhat subdued in the first half prompting the excellent Salford fans to offer to sing as song for us, but then they broke out with the (premature unless it was for us) Wembley chant.
If Salford started brightly in the first half, they sprinted out dazzlingly in the second and, at times I was embarrassed that our poor performance was being shared by millions. I heard that Mr. Moores future was in doubt, although I'm no fan of the so-called manager's merry go round, this is his team and the buck stops with him. But although Salford were running faster, tackling heavier and enjoying most of the play, they weren't, until the double save, bothering Carson too much. A string of worrying free kicks, on the edge of our penalty box (one was given after James Poole was tackled, his performance not only won the free kick but has given him a role in the forthcoming royal Shakespeare`s play at the Theatre Royal). The Carson double save not only gave belief to Pools, but a slice of despair for Salford, they continued to dominate but lacked conviction in front of goal later in the half. As in the first match the Salford players tackled strongly, but seemed to drop to the floor at the slightest touch, they always seemed to have a player on the referee's shoulder and surrounded the referee in numbers every time one of their players ended up on his backside.
My mate, watching in a pub, texted at half time "They are better than us". I replied "Very true, but we're still in it".
On occasion, when Pools have given a poor account of themselves, I've dreaded extra time and wanted the match to finish one way or another within the ninety minutes, but not today. I've endured the Salford "class of 92" hype for weeks now, couple with replays of our exit from the cup from some non-leaguers last year, at nil all there's always a chance for a daft goal.
What a difference a goal makes, the well taken goal by Scott Fenwick, one of the ten players who's fail to perform in the first half, changed everything. Many times I watch Pools wondering where a goal would come from, the Salford lads seem to be of that mind set after we scored. The game changed totally, Pools for once looked like the league side, they dominated, passed the ball well and if another goal was to come in the match it looked like it would come from them. Salford became more niggly and disjointed. The much criticised (by me) Mandron played well, after he came on as substitute, and deserved the second goal, which not only put a lid on the match, but hopefully the media obsession about Salford.
We have tough match at home this Saturday coming, let`s hope the inertia from the cup victory can carry us to a victory (though I won't be visiting the bookies first). Ronnie is a lovely chap but he has to remember that his team is not only playing for his job, but for the thousands of fans who turned out on the bleak, wet night to watch the match, despite it being available in all pubs and many homes in the town.
I saw odds of 5 to 1, for a Salford victory in this match. Had I'd been a Salford supporter or neutral, I would definitely have a flutter, but as a Poolie I refuse to gain financially from Pool's misfortune or even their ineptitude (note to self, you are over using that word, run the Thesaurus next time you feel tempted). I always had the same sentiment regarding betting on England, adopting both options have cost me dear over the years.