Frankie goes to... Mansfield with Hartlepool United

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When most people think about the fixtures long before they even come out I’m sure you all have a few away clubs that you look forward to going to.

Well Mansfield is one of those for me. I am not sure if it is because i think that they are a very similar club to Pools or that they are nice and close (if you can call just over 100 miles away as being a close game), but this is certainly a journey I was looking forward to making.

It is a very easy drive to be fair, straight down the A19 then turn left at Junction 29 on the M1 and about 5 minutes later you are parked up in the car park at Quarry Lane.

Now with a street name like that you would expect Field Mill – sorry, the One Call Stadium (sponsorship eh?) – to be at the bottom of a quarry or at the very least the end of a steep hill, right? Wrong! Instead it rests on a little mole hill close to the town centre with a retail park situated behind the away end.

The ground hasn’t changed one bit despite the years that have passed since our last game there and a wee spell in the dreaded Conference league. It has three stands, one of which behind a goal was given to the 270+ travelling Poolies.

I have to say, major credit must go to our fans who sang, shouted and stamped their feet throughout the game with little in return from the subdued Mansfield supporters. I love it when our fans put the home support to the sword.

A quaint thing about the ground is that rather than take down the dilapidated wooden stand behind the dugouts (why not I have no idea!) they have turned it into the biggest advertising space you’re ever likely to see with well over 40 advertising boards covering the front of what in years gone by was the away fans stand. How times change, eh?

Now I must admit I was nearly caught out at the start of the game. At most grounds you expect the players to come walking out from the middle of the main stand but nope, not at Mansfield where instead they emerged from the far corner of the car park. Ok not quite the car park, however the dressing rooms are at the far right hand corner of the ground a little like they are at Craven Cottage and they were out on the pitch before I knew it!

Anyway, while Pools dished out a thrashing to Mansfield – yes you did read that right, a 4-1 thrashing at that –there is something else worth a mention. That is the quality of their meat and tattie pies, which I just had to break my no pie regime for at half-time and it was well worth it. Who knows, if I’d had another handful of change maybe I could have enjoyed seconds!

The performance of Pools was top quality. To go to the home of a team who before the game were third top, unbeaten and eight games and taking well deserved plaudits from across the league and perform with such confidence was great to witness.

The referee and his assistants however must take up one of those free eye tests opticians like to offer just now. You should have seen the look on the linesman close to me who shouted that poor Luke James and dived when I told him in no uncertain terms that the picture I had showed Luke being tripped. If I could photograph it, and the massed Poolies could see it, then why were the linesman and referee unable to do so?

Next up on my travels is Exeter City with it’s rather beautiful cathedral. Not one of the closest journeys this one but who cares about the distance if we can bring three points home with us.