Hartlepool United v Weymouth: A fixture born from the sheer madness of the 2020-21 National League season
It’s already one of Hartlepool United’s most discussed matches of the season and it hasn’t even kicked off yet.
Pools’ home game against Weymouth will finally take place at Victoria Park this Saturday (12:30pm kick-off).
On the surface it seems like any other final day match, yet in reality, the circumstances that surround it almost perfectly encapsulate the tragic madness of the 2020-21 National League season.
For starters, Pools should have played this game over a month ago when it was originally scheduled and Dover Athletic should be the side visiting Victoria Park this weekend.
But this season, things have rarely gone to plan.
Dover Athletic’s refusal to continue their season past February due to a lack of further grant funding to compensate matches being played behind closed doors caused havoc on the National League table with several sides losing points as The Whites’ results were expunged.
As a result, Pools were left without a game on May 29, the final day of the regular season. Weymouth were also without a game as their originally scheduled match against Macclesfield Town was called off before the season got under way as a result of the Cheshire outfit folding.
In addition, home fans would be allowed to return to stadiums from May 17 – yet Pools were left without a scheduled home match beyond that date.
At this point, the National League intervened and eventually rescheduled the match to take place at the same time as all other matches on May 29 with supporters back at Victoria Park – but there was a catch.
Pools later revealed that they would be compensating a portion of Weymouth’s away travel costs for the early Saturday kick-off. This was understood to have been a crucial factor in getting The Terras to agree to reschedule the match.
But Hartlepool boss Dave Challinor admitted he wasn’t fully aware of the circumstances leading to the rearrangement.
"You hear lots of different things around the circumstances and the situation,” he told The Mail.
“The National League were the driving factor in getting the game moved to the last game of the season to maintain the integrity by having everyone kick off at the same time on the same day.
"They put forward some ideas and from our perspective as a club, it was something, for lots of reasons, we hoped would happen firstly to get fans back in the ground for a regular season game.
"It gives new people at the club to be involved in a matchday and see how it runs and how it works because you’re potentially going into a home play-off game, the biggest game the club has had in some time so how that works in terms of Covid protocols and things like that is obviously going to be a valuable experience.
"In terms of the off the field stuff and away travel, I’m not sure how it’s been worked out and I’ve got no understanding as to why it has been done.
“For me, it didn't really matter when we played this game. Whether we were playing on Saturday or sat watching the TV, looking at who is doing what.
"It’s still the same scenario where we’re playing Weymouth over 90-minutes and looking to win and results elsewhere going in our favour.”