Goals galore as Hartlepool’s form finally improves

Hartlepool United fans pictured at Hartlepool Railway station before joining a special train for an away game during the 1975/76 season.
Hartlepool United fans pictured at Hartlepool Railway station before joining a special train for an away game during the 1975/76 season.

A goal-less first half full of good football - sadly lacking penalty area bite - gave no indication of what was to come on January 21, 1976.

But, as the second half of the battle between Hartlepool and Bradford City at the Victoria Ground kicked off, it proved a drama-filled goal fest.

Dave Smith - back on the goal trail.

Dave Smith - back on the goal trail.

Four goals evenly shared by the teams in just over 20 minutes saw Hartlepool take the lead, lose it, go behind and - finally - equalize.

“Against a team desperate for safety points, Pools played better than they have for some time,” stated the Mail. “Their defence was stronger and attack sharper.”

A flu epidemic had hit Bradford City in the weeks before the match, but the club managed to field a fully fit team to play Pools.

Sadly, however, the same bug struck down Paul Beilby just before the game, who had seemed certain to play for Pools in place of the dropped Kevin McMahon.

Against a team desperate for safety points, Pools played better than they have for some time. Their defence was stronger and attack sharper.

Hartlepool Mail football report from 1976.

Instead, Hartlepool fielded a team which included five defenders and just two strikers - an unusual step for a home team.

Triallist Joe Jacques took over from the injured Kevin Johnson, while John Honour replaced McMahon. Apprentice Kevin Elliott was named as a sub.

“Hartlepool adopted totally new tactics with only two strikers and, although they didn’t gain a big victory, they looked the better side,” reported the Mail.

“But there was a pathetically small ‘crowd’ at the ground when the teams took to the field. A shame when there were goals galore to come.”

An early defensive mix-up gave Bradford the game’s first corner, which was headed away by Rowlands.

Jacques then took Potter’s place beside Rowlands in defence, while Potter moved forward to play in midfield as Pools adopted a 4-4-2 system.

Pools goalie Graham Richardson soon showed his class, by “spectacularly smothering” a ball from Bradford on the six-yard line in the first few minutes.

And, after 11 tense minutes, Pools finally took charge of the action - with Jacques making a brave dive for the ball to deflect a shot at goal by Bradford.

“Hartlepool were now having the better time, but with just two men up front, chances were few and far between,” stated the Mail.

It was all change in the second half, however, as Smith put Pools ahead in the 47th minute. But, just nine minutes later, Morgan equalized for Bradford.

Bradford pushed ahead at 58 minutes, thanks to Hall, but Pools managed to equalise 22 minutes from time. The final scoreline was 2-2.