Close-fought stuff - but who came out on top in the 1986 West-Rovers clash?

editorial image

It has been an annual attraction in the Hartlepool calendar for many a year.

The Boxing Day clash between West Hartlepool and Hartlepool Rovers is always fiercely contested and always brings out supporters of both sides.

Today, we look at the match in 1986 when a large crowd saw Rovers emerge as the victors in a nail-bitingly close encounter.

It was a typically wintry Hartlepool day and the ball was difficult for the players to hold.

The other deciding factor was two packs which were the equal of each other.

The Mail report at the time said: “There were very few constructive three-quarter moves.”

What there was, was plenty of commitment with the Rovers pack having their best game of the season.

The first half saw chances limited to penalty kicks but Calvert missed two early opportunities for Rovers.

And then Stabler also went close without scoring from a long range effort when West came back into the tie. Owen Evans also went close when he was stopped a metre from the line.

The game turned again when Rovers had to make changes ten minutes before half time. Winspear had to leave the field with torn knee ligaments. They brought on Ferguson who took over at full back while Calvert moved to full back.

The move seemed to spur Rovers more than West who infringed twice in the space of minutes near their own posts.

Each time, Calvert stepped up to neatly take the penalty.

It was Rovers who continued to pile on the pressure in the second half but West broke free when they took the play all the way to the home line.

A resultant line-out was well controlled by the West team and they saw Dixon score a try wide out on the left.

It was down to Stabler to take the kick and he levelled the scores with the conversion.

A draw then looked the most likely result but both sides were pressing hard to try and find a late winner and both followed the same tactic.

Both threw everything they could into the pack but the most impressive highlights were the breaks which came in the looser play.

Hackney had two exciting runs for West and both Dee and Hayman went close for Rovers. It was increasingly looking like each side was going to cancel each other out.

But then came the deciding moment and it came for Rovers.

An obstruction by West gave Calvert a chance to slot the easiest of penalty kicks and he did just that.

A Hartlepool Mail report at the time said: “Rovers hung on desperately during a nail-biting finish with eight minutes of injury time being added.

“But they finished on the attack when Wallace kicked through deep into the West half and the visitors had to concede their first defeat to Rovers since 1980.”

Were you there and do you remember the close-fought game?

Or is there another encounter between the two famous sides you would prefer to reflect on?

Have you been one of the players to star in a Rovers-West encounter? get in touch and tell us more.

Email chris.cordner@jpimedia.co.uk and share the memories.