523 and counting - Pools were on a roll

John Coyne whose goal sealed an impressive win for Pools.
John Coyne whose goal sealed an impressive win for Pools.

It’s quite a number to fathom.

But in February 1973, Hartlepool United had gone 523 minutes without conceding a single goal.

Len Ashurst.

Len Ashurst.

At the other end, they were knocking in fine goals.

And the only downside to it all was that a mid-season slump meant this wasn’t going to be anything other than a run which confirmed Hartlepool’s safety for another season.

But while it lasted, it was a phenomenal effort and the latest victory was a 1-0 away triumph at Stockport County.

Our reporter at the time said: “They played the masterful away game, holding Stockpot well at the back and eventually frustrating them so they ran out of steam and spirit, and then grabbing a crippling winner midway through the second half.”

It’s nothing you can really describe but in the dressing room and during training for some time now there has been the sort of feeling there was at Sunderland when we won promotion

Len Ashurst

Pools had soaked up a lot of early pressure yet they had done it in real style.

A back line of Smith, Dawes, Green and Potter controlled the defensive play with Barry Watling in commanding form behind them. Our reporter said: “He made two magnificent saves and several good ones.”

Mick Spelman did more work in midfield than he’d had to do the previous week. But after all, Stockport were an outside bet for promotion.

Bobby Smith and Ron Young grew in terms of the influence they had on the game as the match wore on.

And up front, John Coyne, Ward and Bryan Conlon enjoyed plenty of the ball.

The fans grew more and more confident that this was going to be a two-pointer as the game wore on and this was confirmed with a stylish goal. It arrived on the 73 minute much to the delight of the travelling fans.

It came after County’s Steve Ingle went into the book and Bobby Smith sent in the resultant free kick.

It reached the near post where Coyne risked injury to get to the ball before keeper Alan Ogley and head it out of his hands and just inside the post.

Manager Len Ashurst said afterwards: “It’s nothing you can really describe but in the dressing room and during training for some time now there has been the sort of feeling there was at Sunderland when we won promotion.”

He described the result as “a great win” and added: “It is very good to see all the planning during the week, turned into a game and coming off.

“The lads did all that was asked of them and did it well.”

The only black point was four bookings for Pools.

But even that wasn’t going to put this confident team out of their stride.