Dominic Scurr's verdict as Hartlepool United suffer a sense of deja vu in front of the BT Sport cameras following abandoned match at Eastleigh and injury to Luke Williams

Coronavirus postponements are too mainstream nowadays.

Sunday, 15th November 2020, 12:30 pm

There was a sense of deja vu for Hartlepool United as the Great British weather was the star of the show on a wet Saturday afternoon in Eastleigh.

Whether it was the long journey only to have a match abandoned, more injury woe for Luke Williams or the continuation of the ‘BT Sport curse’ – it was far from a normal matchday for Hartlepool, yet it still had a very familiar feel to it.

Pools boss Dave Challinor marked a year in charge of the club with a 300-mile trip down to face the Spitfires in front of the BT Sport cameras.

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The rollers and covers were out at Eastleigh in an attempt to get the match to go ahead. Unfortunately, it lasted just 45-minutes.

As early as Saturday morning, the match at The Silverlake Stadium looked in doubt with torrential rain forecast and limited resources to prevent it.

Pools were informed that it was likely to be postponed unless the situation improved dramatically before the 5:20pm kick-off time.

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Pools player ratings from abandoned match at Eastleigh

But thanks to a herculean effort from the Eastleigh ground staff, with the added pressure of BT Sport watching on, the pitch became somewhat playable and the match was set to go ahead as planned.

The match was broadcast live on BT Sport.

That was ultimately short-lived as the torrential conditions continued to batter the pitch and the players with wind and rain swirling around The Silverlake Stadium.

Silverlake proved to be a very apt title in the circumstances as water flooded the dugouts and pooled dangerously on the pitch as both players struggled to do even the basics without being thwarted by the boggy surface.

Goalkeeper Henrich Ravas came very close to opening the scoring with a hoofed ball forward that almost caught Eastleigh stopper Joe McDonnell out.

At the other end, Jack Payne’s set-pieces for the Spitfires were proving troublesome but Pools were just able to keep them at bay as the sides went in at 0-0.

Luke Williams' full debut for Pools lasted just 17-minutes (photo: HUFC/Alex Chandy)

And after 45-minutes of splashing around, the referee finally decided to end the farce.

Pools now face another daunting journey for the rearranged game with both teams having a free Saturday on November 28.

Flashback almost exactly a year for Challinor’s first match as Hartlepool manager and there was a real sense that history had repeated itself.

12 months ago this week, Pools made the mammoth trip down to Yeovil Town only to have the match called off due to a waterlogged pitch – only that time it was before kick-off.

The match at The Silverlake Stadium was abandoned due to a waterlogged pitch.

Fortunately, the FA Cup first-round tie was quickly replayed with Challinor’s side running out as 4-1 winners at Huish Park.

"I was thinking about that Yeovil game,” the Pools boss told The Mail following the abandonment at Eastleigh.

“We were talking about how it was almost exactly a year ago to the day since we went down to Yeovil and the pitch was in a very similar state to what it is here, we hoped it wouldn’t be called off this time but we had a feeling and ultimately the sensible decision had to be made.

"The circumstances are slightly different with that game being an FA Cup tie and we came back and won on the Tuesday night so hopefully we can come back to Eastleigh and do the same because I’d take another 4-1 away win any day of the week so fingers crossed that’s the case!”

That match at Yeovil was also Luke Williams’ last competitive outing for the club until this weekend as he was named in the starting line-up at Eastleigh.

It was the first time the injury-plagued midfielder had started a competitive game since 2017.

But his road to recovery took another cruel turn as he lasted just 17-minutes before being forced off with a muscle injury after going in for a tackle.

On the surface, starting Williams in such horrible conditions seems like a ridiculous decision in hindsight.

When the Pools team was revealed with Williams starting in attacking midfield, there was a sense of excitement but also real trepidation as the wind and rain swirled around in Hampshire.

Many would have expected him to be eased into games from the bench, not thrown in almost literally at the deep end having played around an hour of competitive football over the past two and a half years.

From Challinor’s point of view, Williams had been training fully and training well with no real set-backs for the past three months and he needed someone to influence things in the final third following back to back games without a goal.

The player had proven his fitness but, once again, his body failed him when it mattered. And the abandonment has effectively wiped the 27-year-old first start in three years from the history books.

Williams’ tale is a heartbreaking one which doesn't seem to have a happy ending in sight. Just when things look like they’re getting back to normal he’s hit with another setback and one blow after another.

It’s mental torture as much as it is physical for the Pools midfielder, who is now facing yet another spell on the sidelines. And given his reaction on the field on Saturday, it’s hard not to fear the worst.

Williams’ injury record is almost unprecedented in the modern professional game, and for good reason.

Many would call it a day at 27 after playing so little football because of injuries. Yet Williams is unique in the fact that he always seems to bounce back, even if it is short-lived.

The fact that he's managed to earn three contracts from three separate managers at Pools despite playing virtually no football says more about him as a player than anything.

There's a clear determination in Williams to prove to himself as much as everyone else that he’s still capable of repaying the faith Pools have shown in him over the past two years.

And you just get the feeling that his story at the club is still far from over.

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