Mick Tait’s decision to tell his players that he had quit as manager just as they prepared to take on Doncaster Rovers may have had much to do with the outcome of the game.
“The high regard in which Tait is held by his squad inevitably meant that their minds, rightly or wrongly, were not 100 percent focused on the task at hand,” reported the Mail following the game on January 18, 1997.
“Pools were certainly afflicted by something as they turned generosity at the back into an art form to concede four goals in a game for the first time this season.”
A bewildered crowd of just 1,708 looked on as Pools gifted Doncaster a two-goal lead, pulled themselves back into the game at 2-2 and then finally succumbed in a disappointing finish.
The main destroyer proved to be Rovers’ leading scorer, Colin Cramb, who did most of the damage with a well taken hat-trick.
“But even he must have been amazed by the time and space he was given by a defence suffering the worst of off-days,” reported the Mail.
“Pools keeper Paul O’Connor will have nightmares about Cramb’s first, which sneaked under his body from a narrow angle, although there was little he could do about the visitors’ other goals.” The defensive trio of Sean McAuley, Glen Davies and Graeme Lee - so solid in matches of previous weeks - never “got their act together” during the game, and were more ragged than they had ever been all season.
Joint leading goal scorers Joe Allon and Mark Cooper each added one to their tally as Pools made a brief resurgence, but the overall standard of the side’s performance simply did not warrant more.
Rovers went a goal up after 23 minutes, when Cramb got free on the left and fired a fairly tame shot towards O’Connor’s near post.
The keeper looked to have the ball covered, but it squirmed through his hands and into the net for an improbable opener.
Three minutes later, O’Connor was picking the ball out of the net once again, although this time there was little he could have done to keep out John Schofield’s blistering snap-shot from 25 yards.
“In a game never short on incident, Pools pulled one back on 27 minutes, when the ball was squeezed over the line by Allon after a goalmouth scramble,” stated the Mail.
“But it was a game in which Pools were ravaged by Rovers, who kept piling on the misery.” Final score: Pools 2 Rovers 4.