HARTLEPOOL manager Mick Tait told his players that they would never be allowed to forget the nightmare of a fixture on February 8, 1997. His team were soundly beaten by Brighton, who were rock bottom of Division Three. It sucked Pools into a relegation battle and left the boss slamming his ‘spinless’ team. MICHAEL RAMSEY reports.
THERE was always going to be an air of gloom attached to the match at Brighton, considering that a home defeat at the hands of these opponents had cost former boss Keith Houchen his job.
Hartlepool United manager Mick Tait had maintained a stoic figure since assuming the reins of control at the troubled side, but this was the defeat where he finally snapped.
Defeats at Doncaster and Northampton had seen the pressure increase on the Division Three club, as they found themselves dragged into the mire of the relegation dogfight. A crunch clash with bottom of the pile Brighton would have been earmarked as an opportunity to get back on track the reality was a miserable 5-0 drubbing.
Despite beginning the game cut nine points adrift at the bottom of the Football League and languishing 16 points behind their opponents on Saturday, The Seagulls enjoyed some respite from their woes as they ruthlessly tore apart Tait’s beleaguered side. For the third time in four games, Pool conceded a hattrick, with Craig Maskell finding the back of the net during a 33 minute blitz either side of halftime. Former Middlesbrough striker Ian Baird had put the hosts ahead inside the opening seven minutes, with defender Gary Hobson grabbing his side’s fourth of the day in the 48th minute. The misery was compounded for the visitors when defender Chris Beech was shown his marching orders for a second bookable offence.
The performance was labelled as ‘spineless’ by the forlorn Tait, accusing his side of complacency and questioning their ‘heart’.
Pools: O’Connor, Ingram, McAuley, Beech, Lee, McGuckin, Allon, Cooper, Howard, Tait, Sunderland. Subs: Davies, Irvine.
Scorers: Baird (7), Maskell (22, 45, 55) Hobson (48)