Just when you need a hero, Joe’s the man on the spot

Joe Allon.
Joe Allon.

As the year came to a close in 1996, Hartlepool United were involved in a humdinger of a game - even if it looked like it could finish 0-0.

In the end it didn’t and that was thanks to prolific Joe Allon who bagged a goal just as the game entered its final seconds.

Mark Cooper.

Mark Cooper.

The opposition, Torquay United, made three changes including the return of Rodney Jack from World Cup duty with St Vincent.

The sides battled freezing cold conditions mixed with bright sunshine which shone straight into the eyes of the defenders. The problems became evident early on when O’Connor, the Pools keeper, and Torquay’s Neil Gregory challenged for a towering ball, only for it to completely evade them.

Pools were enjoying the more lively start and chances fell to Halliday and Clegg.

Halliday was causing the Torquay defence all sorts of problems with his pace but his cross on 14 minutes just evaded the advancing Allon.

The match was rapidly drawing to a conclusion when Hislop outstripped the Torquay defence to win a corner. And when the cross came in from McAuley, it was Allon who got in a glancing header to beat Wilmot and score his fifth goal

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Then it was Torquay’s turn to attack and Barrow just missed the target with a header from Paul Mitchell’s cross.

Players were going into the books at alarming regularity, with four in the first 29 minutes.

Torquay were reduced to ten men on 38 minutes when Gittens got a second yellow. As it was, though, the match was all square at the break.

That should have changed three minutes into the second half when McGuckin rose above the Gulls defence to power home a header in the top corner. The referee, though, ruled it out for offside.

Torquay almost took advantage of a Clegg foul on Stamps when Oatway curled a free kick towards goal, only for it to scrape over the woodwork.

When it wasn’t O’Connor keeping Torquay out, it was the rock solid Lee who seemed to anticipate most of the home team’s attempts to play through balls.

The match was rapidly drawing to a conclusion when Hislop outstripped the Torquay defence to win a corner.

And when the cross came in from McAuley, it was Allon who got in a glancing header to beat Wilmot and score his fifth goal.

Hartlepool United: O’Connor, Ingram, McAuley, Beech, Lee, McGuckin, Allon, Cooper, Clegg, Halliday, Hislop. Subs: Davies, Tait, Irvine.

Torquay United: Wilmot, Winter, Barrow, Hawthorne, Gittens, Watson, Oatway, Mitchell, Jack, Gregory, Stamps. Subs: McCall, Bedeau, Thomas.

Referee: David Orr (Buckinghamshire).