Contrasting emotions between Hartlepool United and Scunthorpe United supporters show the alternative for Graeme Lee's side

The contrasting emotions at the conclusion of Hartlepool United’s 1-1 draw with Scunthorpe United were striking.

By Joe Ramage
Monday, 2nd May 2022, 12:54 pm

At one end of the field there was a group of players and staff standing in unison, watching on as supporters cheered and chanted their names and sang their appraisals.

At the other end, some players had departed. Others looked despondent. Supporters vented their frustrations and anger at those who remained. There was no harmony. There was no togetherness. At this end of the field things were fractured with, seemingly, no glimpse of positivity to grasp onto.

Back at the other end however, it is that glimpse of positivity which is perhaps why such an upbeat reaction was stirred.

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Hartlepool United fans showed their support for players and staff following their draw with Scunthorpe United. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

Let’s face it, a draw for Pools at the Sands Venue Stadium was not a good result.

Graeme Lee’s side came up against a team already relegated to the National League.

A team who have won just four matches all season.

A team who have now conceded a whopping 83 goals in 45 games.

Nicky Featherstone rescued a point for Hartlepool United at Scunthorpe United. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

A team who fielded a starting line-up consisting of seven teenagers and with just three goals scored combined from Joe Nuttall and Alfie Beestin.

A team bottom of the form table without a win in 15 games.

Pools themselves have struggled for form of late without a win in eight games now and just one win in 11. It was the league’s bottom two form teams, maybe we should have expected a draw.

But while the drop off in form and results has been alarming for Lee’s side, the alternative, which stared Pools supporters in the face some 100-yards or so across the pitch at the other end of the ground, was almost tangible. And Pools ought to know, they’ve been there.

Scunthorpe supporters protested throughout the afternoon, whether by keeping hold of stray footballs that went into the crowd or by throwing tennis balls onto the field to disrupt the game.

There were even some masked supporters trying, and succeeding, to encroach the pitch around the 72nd minute mark - just as Nicky Featherstone deftly converted from the penalty spot to level the scores - with the club’s 72-year stay in the Football League coming to an end this season.

Keith Hill’s side will begin the journey which Pools had to endure themselves some five years ago when Mark O'Brien's late winner for Newport County against Notts County ended a 96-year stay in the EFL.

They know only too well what is to come for the Iron and the hardships they could well face in the National League as a club out of sync with one another.

And it is that example why you almost have to take a step back from Pools’ end of season slump to admit: things could be worse.

That is not to excuse the form which Pools have ended the season in. Questions have been, and will continue to be asked on that with Lee himself admitting recently ‘We have been way off it.’

There’s a myriad of reasons why Pools have tailed off towards the end of the season, whether that be the number of obscure and innocuous injuries they have picked up, to beleaguered players worrying about their futures with contracts yet to be agreed.

Although results suggest otherwise, there’s been some good and there’s been some bad over the final two months of the season since Pools secured their safety in League Two.

There’s been a gruelling run of fixtures and a succession of fixtures against teams fighting at the top end of the table. Either way, it has all been a learning curve for Lee and his staff.

“Everything you do you try and learn from and adapt,” Lee recently told The Mail.

And yet where there may be some cause for frustration, given the position Pools had gotten themselves into in early March, you can’t help but once again acknowledge the alternative at the Sands Venue Stadium.

At the beginning of the season the objective was clear for Dave Challinor, and then again for Lee in December: survival.

That objective has been met with ease and is something the players and staff deserve huge credit for, and credit they received from over 1,600 Pools supporters in their doctors and nurses attires at Scunthorpe.

There have been a number of moments this season where you have to stand back and appreciate the bond this group of players have created with supporters given their efforts over the last two seasons.

Following their defeat against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in the FA Cup fourth round over 4,500 supporters gave players a rousing reception for their endeavours in providing a memorable cup journey.

After their penalty shootout heartbreak against Rotherham United players were almost obliged to give a lap of honour so supporters could show their appreciation.

“It’s something we want to make sure we keep going,” Lee told The Mail following the reception he and his players received at Scunthorpe.

“You don’t want to see what you’ve seen [in the Scunthorpe end] you want what we’ve got at the moment.

“Our club has been through what they’re going through at the moment. And that’s one thing, with going through it, we don’t want it to happen again.

“And that’s my job to make sure I keep this team, this squad and this club moving forward.”

How far Lee can move this club forward remains to be seen.

An important summer lies ahead in terms of rebuilding or adding to the squad of players.

But the first step in progressing the club has been achieved in maintaining their EFL status and Saturday’s show of support underpinned that despite a disappointing result.

This was not a sanctimonious show of support from Pools in Scunthorpe’s demise, but there was perhaps some solace in the fact their club is, hopefully, moving away from those times.