If only Pools could play like this every week!
It was good – and perhaps next season could be even better.
That was Pools manager Ken Hale’s reaction as Hartlepool battled to a 1-1 draw against Shrewsbury Town in April 1975.
Pools had developed a habit of playing really well against the top teams, only to come up short against lesser opposition.
“We seem to need a challenge to produce our best form,” said Ken.
And he spoke of his hopes to sign a cultured midfielder in the close season – someone who could hold the ball and be the midfield general Pools were lacking.
As it was, Pools more than held their own at the Victoria Ground against a team which took an early lead on five minutes.
A Shrewsbury free kick saw the ball swerve towards the net and, despite claims that Bates had tapped it home, the goal was awarded to Durban.
Pools came back strongly and could have scored twice when McMahon and Ward went close in the first instance, and Moore shot under pressure in the second.
Yet Pools weren’t having the game their own way and Shrewsbury looked dangerous each time they went forward.
Watling had to save from Tarbuck, and then the Pools keeper had to push an O’Loughlin shot against the bar. It was end-to-end stuff and Pools went close when Smith picked up well from Spelman, only to have his legs swept from under him as he closed in on goal. The resulting free kick came to nothing.
Pools came back themselves when Johnson rode three tackles to send in a cross, but it could not reach a Pools player.
But the match was back level at 1-1 when Ward went on a good run and crossed for McMahon. Roberts got in an attempted clearance but the ball seemed to hit McMahon and sneak inside the post.
The Hartlepool Mail reporter at the time said: “Hartlepool seemed to be doing well and the goal was their reward for an excellent fightback.”
It was the home team who took up the initiative at the start of the second half. They had a ‘string of raids which kept the Shrewsbury defence busy,” said the Mail’s reporter.
Johnson, Spelman and McMahon all went close but Shrewsbury had chances of their own and O’Loughlin should have done better with an ambitious shot which lacked direction.
Pools may have been on top but they lacked the finishing prowess to make their chances count.
The trend continued when Moore’s right win cross was well headed down by McMahon for Ward to dash round the defence. But his shot was too weak and Mulhearn dealt with it comfortably.
Substitute Honour came on for Spelman and almost got the winner on the 86th minute. Smith presented him with a chance from 20 yards out and he hit it on target, but Mulhearn was there to save well.
After the match, Ken Hale said: “The thing that annoys me is that we seem to need a challenge to produce our best form. That suggests that our problems this season, specially recently, have not been that we are not good enough but that we do not apply ourselves properly.”
He said it was the sort of problem which could be easily solved, and Pools could fancy their chances for the next season.