Hartlepool v Plymouth, 19th December
Hartlepool v Plymouth, 19th December 2015 by Billy Zinc.
Where do referees go on their day off, easy answer for all quiz fans in Hartlepool, as it's Victoria Park. Today's referee seemed intimidated by the lanky guys from Plymouth from the offset. The denial of the penalty in the first half, which would have also resulted in a sending off, after a blatant Plymouth, outstretched, hand ball, more or less sealed Pools fate in this match. The referee, maybe incensed by the jeers of the home crowd, then seemed to make it his Scrooge like mission in the first half to ignore crunching tackles from the away side, whilst booking whilst booking the home team's Gray for a tackle only he saw as a foul. If he was auditioning for the role of the Grinch who Stole Christmas he'd have won every vote from the Hartlepool fans. His failure to spot further hand balls which had Plymouth looking more like the Harlem Globe trotters, was also perplexing the Pools faithful, and by the second half Plymouth's no. 17 had the audacity to actually pass the ball from his left to his right hand, rightly confident that it would go unpunished.
Pools have played some terrible football this season, not least the televised games against Salford which, had they been playing a decent side, would have resulted in heavy defeats. The superb first goal last Tuesday triggered pools to perk up and for twenty minutes we looked like a half decent side, I was hoping we'd carry this on to today's match. The addition of Woods was a boost to the line up today made me think that we could get a point or three today.
Pools started off well, and treated us to one of their best first half performances this season, but the fact that the referee had yet to be visited by his old partner, Jacob Marley or the other three ghosts ensured that the sides went in on level terms. My mate was sure he'd heard the ref shout "Humbug" to the fans after the penalty appeal, but I think he might have been a little fanciful. In truth the penalty best chance that we`d created in the half.
The second half saw the Pools team that has disappointed to many times this season, take the pitch. Plymouth came out with renewed vigour, Pools not so. The away side dominated to such a degree that I looked at the clock, when Pools first attack of the half took place, to see it reading 65 minutes. The first Plymouth goal was inevitable, given the flow of the game and Plymouth's dominance. Plymouth then tried to put a lid on the game, slowing it down and employing the usual gamesmanship that away sides adopt when a goal up. Just as the home fans were beginning to accept yet another home defeat by an average side Moore's substitutions seem to perk Pools up. The introduction of the much maligned (especially by me) Mandron brought physical strength to the forward line for the final ten minutes of the match. It was, given the match as a whole, quite justifiable, for Pools to even the game up after the referee surprised everyone, by giving a decision against Plymouth which resulted in Fenwick converting the Penalty. We all, Pools players and fans, thought the game to be over then, with honours even, but unfortunately the plot was to have one final twist, which gave a happy ending for some of the crowd, but unfortunately not those following the home team. After a knock about between players in the Hartlepool half, a pools player it, looked like it was Naismith, who instead of wellying it, gave the ball to the Plymouth forwards, resulting in the, quite unmerited on the day, winning goal. Many players from both teams gave away possession unnecessarily throughout the match, Naismith (and Pools) were just unlucky that the away side made that mistake count, the no.33 had played as well as anyone, and better than some in the previous 90 minutes.
It wouldn't be Christmas without a pantomime villain, the Plymouth no.17 having attracted boos from the home crowd when he was allowed to play hand ball by the referee, attracted very much the same reaction when he was substituted during injury time. He went off using the time wasting technique of actually being able to "apparently" run at a speed significantly slower than walking pace. I understand the desire to time waste in the closing minutes when your team is one up or has just equalised (are you watching Hartlepool), but I also note that it's players who are lacking in other qualities who employ this technique on leaving the field of play. It would limit gamesmanship if referees restarted the game as soon as the departing player exits the pitch, and his replacement is on it, instead of holding play until the new man has briefed the rest of the team and taken up his position.