How Deep Is Your Love? : Hartlepool (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

26 September 2006

I remember when Town were cool, I can remember when we beat Hartlepool.

Grimsby Town 1 Hartlepool United 4

Just the basic facts, I'll show you where it hurts.

Ah yes! Floodlit football, it's the best! The evocative evocation of esprit de football. Or is that the whiff of embalming fluid. There's nobody home: just two foam fools and an eight year old idly kicking a ball around in a park. The Mariners Mausoleum is open, but rarely visited. Please leave a donation or it'll be turned in to a block of flats.

Town lined up in a 4:4:2 formation as follows: Barnes, McDermott, Fenton, Whittle, Croft, Toner, Bolland, Rrrrrrrrrrrricky Rrrrravenhill, Beagrie, Jones and Thorpe. The substitutes were Bore, Boshell, Taylor, Newey and Lawson. With an average age of 93½ Town were packed with experience, which is another way of saying loads of slow players. It's pretty obvious where everyone stood, isn't it?

Hartlepool, present nemesis number one, played in yellow shirts and green shorts, which at least looked like a kit a football team would wear. Town persisted in wearing the white socks and persisted in looking a bit girlie.

Ah yes, they've brought along the traditional rejector and rejectee double act: Dilly Daly and Banjo Boland, the man one letter short of a midfielder. Or am I mixing them up with the support act at the Spiders Web? So that's where everyone is tonight, eschewing the gristle of Grimsby Town for toe-tapping organ-based fun. In goal they had Konstantopoulos. Didn't he used to be called Istanbul? I suppose that's nobody's business but the Turks.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Osmond Stand. Or maybe Hartlepool kicked off: a minor detail of history so let's skip the intro and cut to the chase. Town spent the first ten minutes chasing after the hanging baskets of Hartlepool.

The cheeky scamps passed and moved at speed! Rip! Ravenland and Bohill grasping at a phantom with Daly and Porter holding and moulding passes to on-rushing midfielders. There's panic in the streets of London, Dundee and indeed Humberside. Crack! Porter twiddled free and caroused a draggy dribbler to Barnes's right. Rumble! A Gibb cross wobbled wide through an unmanned space station orbiting the Town six-yard box.

Three minutes, three attacks, three blind mice in the Town midfield. See how they run. Robson, surging swiftly down their left, mesmerised Macca; Robson dived spectacularly with Macca still ringing up his bookies for the odds on a 0-0. The referee waved play on, not bothering to have a kindly word in the yellow diver's ear.

Ooh, their men are falling. I said ooh-ooh, their men are falling. Free kick after free kick for nought but a stare, infuriating the dwindling devotees as pressure mounted. Four minutes, four free kicks, four candles. I said fork handles, aren't you listening?

Here they come again, mmmm-mm-mm, catch them if we can, mmmm-mm-mm. Time to get a move on Town. Sweeney swivelled and shot straight at Barnes, who pumped the ball upfield and the great yellow swarm returned. Macca swept a cross away from the post as Sweeney lurked. A corner curled, Nelson revved to the near post in front of Jones and plonked a firm header a foot wide of the left post. Six minutes, six shots, six seconds of possession by Town: hopeless.

And then a funny thing happened. Barnes didn't welly a drop kick in the vague direction of the stagnant Blob: he rolled it out to Croft. Town suddenly were not chicken liver pate on toast, but creeping towards being equals in a sporting event.

In the seventh minute Hartlepool did not have a shot. In the eight minute Hartlepool didn't have the ball. In the ninth minute Town strung three passes together without passing Go! Such riches beyond the comprehension of mortals and Mariners, of mice and men. Macca raided and crossed, Beagrie stumbled back and looped a glancing header decades high and centuries wide. An attack! After quarter of an hour Macca raided again and Town won a corner on the right. Beagrie got in his chauffer-driven stretch Reliant Robin and finally arrived in the corner, clipping it low and hard. Fenton, unmarked a dozen yards out in the centre, rose like Neptune and steered a firm header into the top left corner as everyone watched with mother. Some chuckled at the irony, others exorcised several personal demons and Town were leading. Something for everyone there.

Hartlepool were distant ship-smoke on the horizon as Town experimented with this new-fangled notion of confidence and a new method for washing their vests. Barnes continued to roll the ball out to his team mates. Perhaps we should do some statistical analysis on this. Has anyone got a spreadsheet? Don't worry about data migration; all information pre-2000 has been corrupted and there has been no passing in this millennium.

Hah, that fooled them: whilst Hartlepool were grappling with their data migration protocols using generic steps (and all they ever needed to remember was that generic steps are what you take, walking on the moon) Toner received a pass from a team mate on the right wing. He fiddled, he faddled, gave up fuddling and turned infield on the corner of the penalty area, swinging a curving shot which drifted across the face of goal and a few inches wide of the far post. Oh I say, Virginia!

Town just can't get enough of this thang they call lurve. No, I mean passing and movement. Have you ever thought that it sounds like a doctor's euphemism or a public information film. Rrrrricky Rrrravenhill won't be there when you cross the road? Whatever, Hartlepool were still distressed by Town's variation on a B-string. Barnes chucked the ball out to Toner on the centre right, who turned and ran at the 'Poolers. Thorpe drifted into a space between their defence and midfield, receiving a pass from Toner as Town flowed like a mountain stream. Ravenhill sprinted past Thorpe, beyond the Blob and Tiny Tony, and swooned a perfect pass through several needles. Istanbul advanced, Ravenhill pounced and poked a first time shot under their leaky Greeky keepy. The ball boinged off the inside of the post and across the face of goal, but straight to their right back. C'mon stand up and applaud that - it was acemer.

A very strange thing happened in the 29th minute: the referee finally awarded a free kick to Town for a foul. Oh the ironic laughter did resonate and reverberate through the empty rafters. I've missed out all the moaning about Hartlepool diving: take it as read that every thirty seconds they got a free kick, OK?

Is there no stopping Town now, we're having a good time. Like a rocket ship on its way to Mars, Macca exploded a shifty shot across the face of goal, inches wide. Town shooting, Town passing - whatever next? Town shooting themselves in the foot usually.

It was lovely to watch, these yellow perils kept easily at arm's length. Their ten minute storm was just a teacup, their only threat was at corners, when Nelson was accorded the respect deserved by an ancient seafarer. Whittle stood off and watched as Nelson plonked a free header wide, then bunked a header towards goal, which Toner chested away in a scramble of great bacon and pea omeletteness.

There were three minutes of added time, which passed uneventfully. Nothing happened, everything was wonderful, there's no need to worry about a thing. Please sir, do not look behind the curtain. Please keep moving along, the Scene of Crime Officers have to do their job. Doh!

In the last seconds of the half, a Hartlepooler crossed and the ball was etched away from danger towards the centre right edge of the area. Beagrie waddled in and swept the ball away from a Poolieperson. He considered passing back to Barnes, but did a little hoppy step-over and glided towards the corner flag, pursued by an angry bear. He rolled around near the corner flag, did his Beagrie twisty thing and made the young Yellowman look a little silly. FoolPeter's dander was up, showboat time in front of the fans; time to endear himself to the Pontoon with trickery and frippery. Back he headed towards Barnes with a step-over, a twist and another Beagrie-thing. Ignoring a fourth opportunity to simply lash the ball downfield or out of play he tried yet another trick. Robson blocked his path and Beagrie fell over, got up and grabbed a little piece of yellow nylon. The referee, stood just a few yards away, couldn't wait to give the penalty: he'd spent all the first half loudly telling Fenton and Whittle to let go of yellow shirts at all set pieces. Whittle stood next to Beagrie and held a one way animated conversation. Daly steered the penalty high into the left side of the goal, with Barnes' finger tips just millimetres away.

Within two seconds of the restart it was half time. Beagrie slowly raised his hand to apologise to the Pontoon, but no-one was willing to accept: his crass arrogance had torpedoed this fragile Town trawler.

Apart from the first ten minutes and the last ten seconds, Town were acceptably decent, playing football; an exhibition of sensible soccer. Fenton was fine, Whittle solid, not soiled, and Thorpe was hinting at creativity. Bovenland and Rahill seemed to get some sort of grip on proceedings, without ever convincing that they were capable of controlling the football. How can we tell then apart? Perhaps one of them should wear a big ginger wig: whoever is playing worst at the time; voting by text by the supporters during the game. The wig can pass between them every five minutes, unlike the ball.

But the ending was a huge deflator, you could feel it in the crowd, see it in the players, the belief seeped away in to the night sky as they trudged off.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time.

As usual from the restart, Town's opponents roared away in to the sunset. Swirls of yellow and green, towering over Town's head.

They, that is Hartlepool, simply ran rings round a vegetating Town. What midfield? Tweedledum and Tweedledee disappeared and the Poolers ran at will through the middle, down the side, across the park and probably into the toilets too. Croft blocked a Gibb shot magnificently, presaging a series of corners. Town were being strangled again as corners and crosses flashed in and out of the area. Daly, six yards out and unmarked, plonked a header just over the bar.

Someday soon Town will come and visit us down in the Pontoon.

Ooh-ooh, we nearly crossed the halfway line. A yellow fiend handled the ball, but play continued. Three Town players converged and lunged, with Ravenhill bringing down Daly, about 25 yards out. Barnes stood on the centre right of goal, peering around the wall as two Poolers danced a little dance. Liddle lofted the ball over the wall and the ball looped slowly towards the bottom left corner. Barnes disappeared behind the wall and never emerged on the other side. Liddle had scored. Perhaps Barnes slipped down a hole in the ground? But the ground's all flat and beneath it is a bloke in a bowler hat. Perhaps Barnes was gripped by terminal ennui? Perhaps. Perhaps it was a miss-hap for which he must take the rap.

Town's response was risible and invisible. The balloon went limper. Clark plonked a free header goalwards and Barnes tipped it over. Another corner, another chance to delve into the bumper book of Mariners moans.

Call Professor Huffenheiter's strange world of the strange! In the 58th minute the referee awarded a free kick to Town for a foul, just 29 minutes after the first one. Is Blundell Park built on a ley line? Pass the smelling salts, Watkiss, for Town were given another free kick 29 seconds later.

Town had a great 58th minute with free kicks and shots! Croft scaled the north face of the Eiger to barundle down the left. He crossed, Toner waited outside the area in the centre and levered a curling volley a few inches past the right post. Town returned, forcing a corner and Toner stooped to steer a header goalwards from near the penalty spot. The ball brushed off Nelson's chest a few yards out and spun past the left post.

Fenton clobbered a Poolie, getting booked; Nelson headed the free kick over. Free headers and fouls: a neat summary of what was to come.

Beagrie was finally removed with 25 minutes left, replaced by Bore who went to the right wing and Toner to the left. Beagrie took 8 minutes to walk off the pitch - using his 200 years of professional experience to the full. He just knew the boo-ers would run out of steam, leaving the singing ringing tree corner to mutely applaud him. This move galvanised Town for five minutes. Bore tore through the centre, almost playing Thorpe through. Bore crossed, the ball rolled clear and Croft, twenty five yards out on the left, beautifully curled a shot to the top right corner where Konstantcraving waited and plucked. A minute later Bore won a header, directing the ball into the middle of the area. Istanbul came out, Thorpe threw himself at the bouncing ball and Nelson booted Tony the Tiny Terror in the face as he was about to head goalwards. With this ref? You must be joking.

Thorpe was almost immediately replaced by Taylor, much to the chagrin of the purple people. They wanted Jones the Blob to be removed forthwith and forever more. Thorpe looked quite capable of being any good and worth persevering with. There's something to cling on to as the waters crash around your ears.

The last twenty minutes were horrific, with Town a runny blancmange that had been sat upon by Mr Creosote: a squashed gooey mess. The centre disappeared and Hartlepool shuffled safely down this street. The ball was laid out to the unmarked Robson deep inside the Town area on the right, whose shot was excellently parried aside by Barnes from a narrow angle. From the corner more wibbles wobbled and Robson did it again wiggling and waggling through three challenges before slurping a snorting shot straight at Barnes, who tipped the ball over from underneath the crossbar. Nelson headed the corner into the net, but it was disallowed for being bigger and better than us, or perhaps excessive use of his manliness.

Ravenhill and Bolland virtually gave up, with many a shrug betwixt miss and match. It was left to Croft to psycho Porter into the advertisement boards. It's all merging into a grey mass of foggy nonsense. It's about time they scored again.

With five minutes left Robson broke away down their left, looked up and hit a rubbish pass straight to Fenton, 25 yards out in the centre. Fenton had been fine...up to this point. His cushioned-volley back-pass died just inside the area. Daly lunged, Barnes stretched and the loan failure swept through with ball. Daly got up and rolled the ball into the empty net for another embarrassingly daft goal.

At this the Pontoon attempted to achieve some kind of dialectical synthesis out of a range of perspectives: "Rodgers Out". Grimsby 'till they cry again, eh?

Town had a few red herrings after this: Toner had a shot blocked; Jones headed 12 yards wide with a free header from a Toner cross and Ravenhill wafted a waster over the bar. But no-one was kidding themselves about anything; we looked out across the sea of faces and we saw dead men walking. Hollow-eyed, thin of skin, meek in midfield: Town were a void into which the frustration of three thousand lives was vocally poured.

Deep into added time, when Town were no longer functioning as a football team, a yellowman ran off down their left, unimpeded despite several Town shirts being visible near him. Porter cut infield and lashed a curling drive across Barnes and into the left corner of the goal. At last a proper goal conceded.

Wouldn't it be simpler just not bother turning up to play Hartlepool? Let 'em have the three points and the default 3-0 win; it may improve our goal difference. Town bossed the majority of the first half and were extremely comfortable and seemingly cruising towards contentment. In one moment of hubris our world turned. Is there no soul, no heart to this team? It doesn't look like it - the weight of evidence is piling up.

Nicko's unsponsored man of the match
It's either the lady in the fish shop who remembered I don't like mushy peas, or Ciaran Toner for being OK.

Markie's UnMan of the Match
Peter Beagrie, for crushing his own team with crassness? Gary Blob for being just incapable of dong anything right? Ravenglass and Bland for the being the heart that refused to beat? So many candidates, but for consistency it must Gary Jones. He is alive, isn't he?

Official Warning
Mr D Deadman was almost pathologically incapable of giving decisions Town's way. It was wilful and disgraceful. His ineptness is no excuse for the general performance of the Grimsby team, just as the Town performance is no excuse for him. For getting two decisions correct all game he gets 1.234. After all, he did start and stop it within the parameters set by the FA.

The Others
They were frighteningly fluid for ten minutes, then docile for half an hour. They took advantage of Town's mental feebleness rather than appearing to have the gumption to overcome a resurgent Town themselves. Nelson looked excellent in both penalty boxes and overall a team capable of beating anyone we've seen so far. They passed the ball to each other and moved quickly around too. Probably quite nice to watch as a neutral. I'd just like them to go away.