The day when Houchen, Linacre and Bird starred in a stylish Pools win

Keith Houchen gets in a header which is just off target.
Keith Houchen gets in a header which is just off target.

Hartlepool got off to an opening day disaster in the new 1981 football season.

But after that, Pools were slowly but surely finding the form they had shown in the previous campaign and by September, the improvements on the pitch led to a fine 2-1 win at home to Wigan.

John Linacre.

John Linacre.

This was a team which boasted the likes of John Bird at centre half, John Linacre and Keith Houchen.

They had a young Andy Linighan on the subs bench and Bobby Kerr in the squad, although not included for this game.

There was further good news for the future. Our reporter said: “Linacre’s return to the Pool’s fold was a well timed booster, as was the news that Bob Newton could be playing on Wednesday night against Northampton.”

For this game, Linacre was the star and brought “much needed pace” to the team.

Hartlepool kicked off attacking the the Town End and should have taken the lead after a minute.

Hartlepool Mail reporter, 1981

Pools dominated from the off. They should have gone 1-0 up in the first minute when Houchen crossed for Hampton who helped the ball into the middle. It eventually ran for Hogan who sent his shot over the bar.

Houchen was involved again when he sent Sweeney on his way with a long ball but Wigan managed a last-ditch clearance.

And a Brown free kick was headed just wide of the far post by Fagan. Yet despite all the pressure, it was still goalless going into the second half.

Wigan came into it in the second half and Pools were seemingly trying too hard to make the breakthrough.

Wigan dangerman Houghton went close twice within minutes.

But then it all changed on 69 minutes when Johnson slipped a ball over the Wigan back line and Linacre raced through to drill the ball under the advancing Brown from 15 yards.

Two minutes later and it was 2-0. Houchen burst clear with the Wigan defence chasing back. He crossed for Hampton who drew the keeper before calmly slotting home from 12 yards.

It seemed to trigger a more relaxed Pools and they paid fpor it when Houghton raced through to beat Burleigh to Quinn’s great through ball.

But late pressure from the visitors failed to produce an equaliser and the points were Hartlepool’s.

Hartlepool: Burleigh, Sweeney, Simpson, Hogan, Bird, Fagan, Brown, Linacre, Hampton, Houchen, Johnson.

Wigan: Brown, McMahan, McAadam, Cribley, Lloyd, Methven, Sheldon, Barrow, Houghton, Quinn, Evans.

Referee; T Mills (Barnsley).

Attendance: 1,715.