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Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

30 October 2022

Ah Hartlepool, field of dreams. We're used to a load of bulls in Durham. Never mind the quality, feel the width of the pitch and the length of the grass; it's fit for most grazing cows, mostly. The more discerning heffers would find it far too long and coarse.

Ah, Hartlepool where it is forever autumn with an unwetting day of uplifting dankness for a gathering of the northern clans. So many familiar faces, so few spaces to sit when you pass through the iron gate into the world of wonder that is Victoria Park, the corporately clad Suits You, Sir, Stadium.

Town lined up in a 5-3-2 formation as follows: Crocombe, Efete, Waterfall, Smith, Maher, Amos, Morris, Holohan, Clifton, Richardson and Taylor. The substitutes were Cropper, Pearson, Hunt, Green, Khan, Simmonds and Pepple. When things go awry Mr Happy is always happy to try to put an extra finger in the dyke. Three at the back? And Mother Makes Five, remember, was an equally successful sitcom sequel.

And what of Mr Meat Loaf's favourite team? They're just objects in the rear view mirror, aren't they?

OK, the quicker we start this, the earlier we can get home.

1st half – Under and Over
Pinky Town kicked away from the 700 or so in the old Rinky Dink End and for one brief moment in time the Poolsmen approached the point of passing to each other. We saw them, over there, moving their feet. The ball was not attached to this reality.

Holes in the deserted Hartleflanks, for which we gave thanks as the enemy held back our tanks for a while. Efete roaming in the gloaming, Taylor slide-stretching, the ball shimmering across the face of goal.

Breaks, breaks, breaks, don't break the waves of Townness. In then out, Holohan's up'n'under dropped and Clifton's volley plopped into Killip's arms. Efete re-roamed and Tricky Dickieson drove along empty lanes tooting his horn. The ball spoondled upwards and outwards and Holohan apologised to his former landlady for going on an old-fashioned bender. No, not a night out Meggies with a greasy chip buttie, but an arcing masterpiece coiled magnificently with the outside of his right boot swishing and swaying around blues' noses and in off the farthest post. He stood, arms out, seeking absolution from the onlooking locals, who sighed sadly, then stood up and applauded. Well, some did.

Come on, let's take it easy. Deeper you go, the higher you fly, the higher you fly, the deeper you go. Za-za-zoom, va-va-voom, a pocketful of pink posies in bloom. Much Michee marauding as Richardson revelled in rolling and pinning his mannequin marker. Hoopla, shangri-la, ha-ha-ha Hartlepoolers. Crossing, flossing, Town bossing the bossa nova.

Mauling and bawling, the home stands calling for heads. The ref not standing for the falling, calling out around the world, are they ready for a brand new beating?

Ooh, that's nice. They had a shot. I say shot, that's possibly a generous interpretation of the flightpath of this emu. Blue stripes moved from side to side. Striped blues kicked the ball in the air. Now and again the ball kept moving towards the Town penalty area, but we all know that pink socks are fuchsia.

Mmm, maybe not that easy, lads. A dink into the netherworld between Waterfall and Efete and Oduor splendidly shinned towards the first tee at Hartlepool golf club.

Your inside is out when your outside is in, your outside is in when your inside is out. C’mon let's take it easy.

Efete electric and effective, Holohan crossly shot across and Killip plucked the turkey. Little Harry and Taylor duveted a defender and the ball's in the net! But a flag is waving in the distance. Our hopes of early bird happiness scuttled and clipped. Two and they're gone for good.

Get up, shut up. Play the game not the man.

And then it slowly dawned on the gathered Grimbarians that the pink laddies had coagulated, like a blancmange left too long in the fridge. Town sat back, stood off and watched the daydream believers move from side to side, to chip and chase, to set up their sales pitch and hold out their hats hoping for some charitable giving.

Eventually, sometime near the point where the burger queues began, what could reasonably be inferred in a court of law, on the balance of probabilities, a shot occurred. Wiffles be waffled and Cooke bedraggled from afar and pleasantly wide as Crocombe played air guitar nearby.

This only encouraged them to think of themselves as footballers. We really should avoid giving encouragement to the lower orders.

Waterfall wrestled with Umerah, who plunged to earth under the merest of half Nelsons. A yellow card, a three man wall of wattling witterers and Mr Orange calmly plunged to push aside. Corners gotta corner and Big Luke has a big head. And still the pipe leaked upon our floor. Umerah fell within the Town penalty area asserting crimes of passion most foul. Up Town furled, Tricky Dickieson looked for his downtown man and Taylor scored but that flag be a-fluttering again.

And again. Richardson rolled Ferguson and as he walked the ball into the net he looked into the distance and saw…that darn flag flutter.

Time ticked on, the ball occasionally flicked on and Crocombe got around to taking goal kicks. Is this too easy?

Two minutes were added. What shall we do to fill the empty spaces? Close your eyes and think of sausages.

When you get down to the root, don't give a damn don't give a hoot if Town win. But they have to win otherwise we've driven for three hours to stand in a tin shed watching sheep grazing. This could disappear into a wormhole of wiffling and woe if they don't turn up for the second part of the show.

2nd half – It's awfully bad for your eyes, darling
Neither side made any changes at half time.

Revved up and raring to go, Holohan tickled Little Harry free. Killip doffed his cap as Clifton's slap went straight at his nose. A corner, maybe, a cross, certainly, and for Amos above him there is only sky. Neither a crosser or a shooter, carry on crotting, Danny boy.

Activity levels increasing, put up the force field. Striped slitherings, pink ditherings and Cooke's low skipper was slobbered aside by our Orangina, who got up immediately and chased away some oiks out of the penalty area. Pah, the youth of today with their colours and noise.

What was that, what was the point of it? Is there anything else we need worry ourselves about? No sir, no. All I'm trying to do is help you understand that one Hartlepool attack is merely a blip on an otherwise uninterrupted downward trajectory from half time.

Town thissing and thatting, Efete roamed, a few groaned as an absence of pinkery delayed the inevitable cherry-topping denouement of a second Town goal. Waterfall headed a free kick down, Maher stretched, Ferguson stretched further and toe-poked at the near post. The ball headed to the bottom left corner and Killip toe-ended off the line from the foot of the post with the lastest of gaspest interventions.

Triangles! Richardson rolled and winked into the vastness of a void. Alas, poor Taylor, we know he's old. A stretch too far and a he was off, limping for a generation, though probably not a blow for the Monkeymen as Pepple came on.

Bim looks slim and trim but apart from falling over a couple of times, what has he achieved yet? A moment. The moment? No, just another moment that passed him by. Swizzling on the penalty spot, tizzling and turning two stray centre-backs, Pepple plonked a slicing swipe wide of the right post. Oh well, never mind, maybe next time.

Green replaced Richardson, they made a change too. Hey, hang on, 70 minutes, a striker off and a defensive midfielder on…haven't we been here before? Let's hang on to what we've got.

Holohan chippled into the corridor of uncertainty 'twixt six and eighteen yard lines. Clifton burstled through a gap in the space time continuum, buffled onwards and scraped lowly, slowly across the plunging Killip. And the plunging Killip failed to fail, clutching the roller with fussage. Oh well, you can't have everything. It isn't as though the Hartlepoolers are bucking their trend of blippery.

Get out the sponge, there some moppery needed before we shut the shop. And Town's dots stopped moving.

Crocombe dropped a cross, Crocombe plucked a cross, Crocombe picked a pint of pickled peppers from plucky Poolers. Much needless panic in the park, with heedless chickening upfront, tippy-tappy triangles of badness. Furrow that brow.

Killip in a pickle way out left, clubbing a clatter straight to pinkies. Smith didn't lob towards the emptiness, electing to pass the buck to a generic chum halfway nowhere. The ball was lost, the ball was cleared and a stripe tumbled under a challenge way out right. The free kick drooped beyond the far post and was quarter cleared. Pinkers stayed respectfully distant allowing a delicate dink deep into the depths of the Town penalty area. The ball sailed over various hairstyles and Lacey arose, unmarked, six yards out to noddle neatly into the left side of the net.

Huh, so now they are awake. Indeed they are, they believe they can fly, that they can run through that open door. Yes, there's more.

Nibbly-nobbly nothingness, and a throw-in half way between here and there on Town's right. A chuck, a clip, Umerah performed some contemporary interpretive dance at the near post, missing the ball and messing with Mariner minds as it sailed on and on and on. Crocombe froze, clearly in fear of modern interpretive dance being performed so close to his ears, Maher nodded and nosed and the ball nestled as only balls do in the left side of the nettage.

Town got sucked into a hole, now there's a hole in the sky.

A double subbing: Khan and Kiki Dee for Maher and Morris. Shapeless, formless, hopeless, hapless. Four minutes were added.

Lumping and dumping, a free kick looped, a Waterfall header back from the back of beyond, Simmonds waited by the penalty spot adjusted his boots and carefully waft-footed an inch wide of the left post.

Dumping and lumping, Efete crossed lowly, several pinkies waited, Green poked against the outside of the post. A wave, a whistle, a promotion pumpkin deflated and we all went home…to our tomatoes.

Town succeeded only in failing. For 20 minutes it was far too simple, a merry mismatch between artless amateurs and professional cynics, Town so pretty in pink.

And then they sat back and strolled in classic Hurst Mark I mode. Rubbish opposition? Score one, sit back, soak it up, keep it tight, keep us shape and maybe nick another. And in classic Hurst Mark I style Town let opponents see it, sort it, and save it. And we're seething, John, seething at a reversion to type, a remembrance of sins past.

Barrow. Hartlepool. Why? It's a state of mind and we do mind the gap between complacency and confidence.