Pools boss turned game around with half-time team-talk

Paul Dobson grabs his first goal of the day.
Paul Dobson grabs his first goal of the day.

A half-time team talk certainly did the trick in a game against Mansfield more than 30 years ago which saw Pools trailing at the break.

But Billy Horner spurred his troops on and they rallied with four second-half strikes to take the points in a battle of the league strugglers in February 1984.

It's a second for Paul Dobson.

It's a second for Paul Dobson.

By the end, the Mail’s reporter said: “Hartlepool’s performance in Saturday’s Victoria Ground win over fellow strugglers Mansfield underlined the glaring contrasts in what fate could await the team in the remainder of the season.

“If they can play consistently like they did in the second half, safety is not only a possibility ... it is almost certain.”

Pools trailed to a goal by a former favourite of their own.

Billy Ayre scored with a diving header from close range after Dave Caldwell had hit the Hartlepool bar. Our reporter at the time said the home defence had “gone to sleep on 27 minutes”.

The transformation was amazing. Billy Horner ordered Kenny Lowe to push forward and play just behind the attack and that is what made the difference as Pools suddenly found a way to break down Mansfield’s sweeper system

Hartlepool Mail reporter, 1984

Mansfield suffered a setback when former England defender Steve Whitworth suffered an injury, but it did not seem to affect their dominance.

Pools were second best for long periods of that first half.

The defence looked shaky, the midfield was struggling to make a difference and the attack barely made an impression on the Mansfield defence.

But they were back on level terms in the 55th minute.

“The transformation was amazing,” said the reporter. “Billy Horner ordered Kenny Lowe to push forward and play just behind the attack, and that is what made the difference as Pools suddenly found a way to break down Mansfield’s sweeper system.”

The turnaround did indeed begin with a move in which Lowe featured.

He squared the ball from the right and Roy Hogan hammered it low into the box for Ray Kennedy to turn and blast his 12-yard shot into the net.

The difference now was that Paul Dobson, Phil Linacre and the midfield men were finding the space that did not exist before.

Pools were in front when they got a penalty eight minutes later. Dobson, on the right of the box, was scythed down by Foster’s lunging tackle, and Linacre scored from the spot.

Mansfield defender George Foster was sent off in a game which our reporter described at the time as “very physical”.

But it was Dobson who really clinched the game with a brace in the 78th and 79th minutes.

His first came when he picked up a loose ball after Daines could not hold Lowe’s well-struck 25-yard shot. Dobson reacted and scored with ease.

Then Paul Staff – who was returning from injury – challenged Daines. The goalkeeper lost the ball in the box and Dobson pounced again for another typical goal.

By now, said our man on the spot, Pools were in total control, and the Mansfield team were losing their poise.

The fact that the result was easier than anybody had a right to predict was down to Dobson’s finishing.

“There might have been more,” said our reporter.

Pools peppered the away goal with shots, but it ended 4-1 and the reporter’s summary said: “Anybody who wasn’t satisfied with four after that first half must be very difficult to please.”