How Hartlepool United always find a way to fend off big drop – Five previous escapes from relegation

Jordan Hugill celebrates with the Hartlepool United fans at the end of the game against Exeter City in 2015.
Jordan Hugill celebrates with the Hartlepool United fans at the end of the game against Exeter City in 2015.

Back here again.

For those of you who believe Hartlepool United’s brush with the football equivalent of Armageddon was only invented in the last four years, think again.

Pools have made it their speciality in a 96-year stay in the Football League.

Long before promotion and relegation was brought in from the Conference, Pools were doing their level best to go down.

Those of you of a certain vintage will recall a record number of applications for re-election, when a club finishing in the bottom four of the Fourth Division had to get enough votes to stay in the League.

There have been countless flirtations with the drop since then though it has never reached the final day of the season like now when Pools will be odds on to drop into the National League. Pour yourselves a cuppa and re-live five brushes with ‘death’.

Darlington 1 Pools 2

Division Four

24 April 1972. Att: 8,809

Feethams was packed to the rafters for this Len Ashurst-led great escape.

Pools found themselves bottom of the league but under the former Sunderland defender, there was some revival.

And the climax came, fittingly, on enemy turf.

Darlington, featuring future Pools bosses, Ken Hale and the legendary Billy Horner, led in the first half through Colin Sinclair.

However, never-say-die Pools fought back with an equaliser from defender Bill Green before Willie Waddell hit the winner to send 5,000 away fans into ecstasy.

Pools finished 18th after collecting 19 points from a possible 24, with that win over the Quakers keeping the side out of the re-election zone.

Darlington 1 Pools 2

Division Three

19 April 1997. Att: 4,662

Darlo again?! Can you see a pattern emerging?

This was as dramatic as they come with Pools in grave danger as they went to Feethams for the third-last match of the season.

It all began well when on-loan Michael Brown’s superb free-kick gave Mick Tait’s side an early lead.

However, the away goal came under threat and Gary Roberts’s nice finish with his left foot on the stroke of half-time brought Pools level.

But with time running out and a victory a must, who would you want in the opposition six-yard box?

Yes, Joe Allon. The 1991 promotion hero forced the ball in from close range and off came the jersey for a topless celebration.

Pools thrashed Barnet 4-0 the next Saturday and drew 2-2 at Swansea in the last game to finish 20th on 51 points, four better off than Hereford who were the relegated team.

Pools 0 Carlisle Utd 0

Division Three

1 May 1999. Att: 4,468

Pools, now under Chris Turner, had done the hard in the previous home game by whipping Scarborough 3-0 in the bottom of the table clash.

But they still needed a point from their last home game to secure their Football League place.

And they achieved it against Nigel Pearson’s team at the Vic.

Chris Freestone had a header from Peter Beardsley’s corner cleared off the line while away keeper Jimmy Glass saved from Beardsley and Chris Westwood.

Of course, Glass would make his mark at the other end for the Cumbrians the following Saturday at Brunton Park where his late goal saved Carlisle and relegated Scarborough.

Pools ended the campaign 22nd on 51 points.

Pools 2 Morecambe, 1

League Two

21 April 2014. Att: 4,864

Those of you unfortunate to have been at Burton on the Saturday when Pools produced a truly deplorable ‘effort’ and lost 3-0 would have given Colin Cooper’s side little chance on Easter Monday against Morecambe.

The odds of survival grew even longer when Kevin Ellison gave Jim Bentley’s team a first-half lead.

And the odds got even worse when Simon Walton was red carded early in the second period.

Surely there was no way back? Enter the two Jacks, Compton and Barmby, who turned the game on its head.

Compton’s superb goal from the edge of the box midway through he half brought the hosts level and Barmby’s ultra-cool winner 10 minutes from time sent the fans into delirium.

Pools finished the campaign on 53 points in 19th with Torquay and Bristol Rovers the two clubs to perish.

Pools 2 Exeter City 1

League Two

25 April 2015. Att: 4,994

The greatest of great escapes was completed when Ronnie Moore’s team beat the Grecians in front of more fervent scenes at the Vic on the penultimate weekend of the campaign.

When Pools were 10 points from safety, only a few gave Pools a prayer.

But, never write of Hartlepool.

Scott Fenwick finished nicely to give Pools an early lead, only for play-off chasing Exeter to equalise immediately as the unmarked Graham Cummins headed past Scott Flinders.

But the win was achieved via two loan signings, Aaron Tshibola’s setting up Jordan Hugill to score just before half-time.

Tranmere and Cheltenham were relegated as Pools lived to fight another day.

Sadly, we are all back for another scrap for survival on Saturday.

But it can be done.