Illness, injury and no wins that year - but try telling all that to a Pools team full of dogged fight

Malcolm Moore is foiled as he tries to break through the Bradford defence.
Malcolm Moore is foiled as he tries to break through the Bradford defence.

The signs were not good in 1976.

Pools had got to the latter half of February without registering a win, or many points for that matter.

Mick Spelman on the attack for Pools against Bradford.

Mick Spelman on the attack for Pools against Bradford.

A 2-3 reverse to Darlington was just one example of the struggles that the Victoria Park outfit were going through that winter.

But there was one match that month that summed up their battling spirit in the face of adversity.

It happened against Bradford City and their performance was so inspiring, it prompted our reporter at the time to write: “They played well enough to suggest they don’t have too much to worry about in the remainder of the season.”

The two stars in this game were both called Smith – Dave and Rob – and they were both making a return to the starting line-up after missing out in previous games.

They played well enough to suggest they don’t have too much to worry about in the remainder of the season

Hartlepool Mail reporter, 1976

Both players were successes in a match where Ken Hale had to change his starting formation to a 4-4-2 line-up because of injuries.

“More chances were created on Saturday but too many of them were missed for comfort,” said our man.

An illness for Paul Bielby meant he missed out and George Potter switched from defence to midfield, while Joe Jacques partnered John Rowlands at the back.

The first half ended goalless but it was a different matter in a lively second half filled with goals.

On 47 minutes, John Honour’s right win corner was headed back into the middle by Rowlands and Dave Smith was there to head the ball over visiting keeper Peter Downsborough from close range.

Bradford were back in the game nine minutes later when Graham Richardson in the Pools goal gave away a controversial penalty, by rushing out to try and intercept a cross but apparently pushing McGinley in the process, said the referee.

Ingram sent the keeper the wrong way.

It was Bradford who took the lead just two minutes later when a right-wing cross was punched away by Richardson, but his effort only reached David Hillness, who hammered the ball into the roof of the net.

But Pools were back on level terms on 68 minutes when Rob Smith did well to get a ball through to Honour. He crossed from the right and the ball dropped for the in-rushing Dave Smith who prodded it home.

Hartlepool stepped up the pressure from then on and were in control for the rest of the match, but the winner just would not come.

Yet if ever a 2-2 draw was a good result, this was it after such a long period without much to show for it.