Match of the Day: No Valentine love-in for Hartlepool at Sheffield Wednesday in February 2004

Neale Cooper
Neale Cooper

DESPITE spending an evening handing them out, not many would expect referee Alan Butler to have received many cards from Hartlepool United on Valentine’s Day.

The spirit was far from amorous on a frosty night at Hillsborough, with Hartlepool United boss Neale Cooper venting his spleen at Butler for a controversial decision that ultimately cost his side all three points against Sheffield Wednesday.

With just twelve minutes remaining, Owls’ forward Kim Olsen challenged for a cross with Pools’ Chris Westwood, with the former awarded the penalty following minimal contact with his opponent.

Cooper’s face was contorted with rage as Guylain Ndumbu­-Nsungu dispatched the resulting spot-kick, in what would prove to be the only goal of the game. Pools’ had dominated the game in terms of possession and chances, but had failed to make their superiority count.

The home side weathered an early storm from the visitors, with Gavin Strachan drawing a wonderful reaction save from Ola Tidman with a volley in the first half.

Chris Shuker came close with a low drive that whistled past the post, before Paul Robinson cut inside and drew another save from the alert Tidman. New arrival Hugh Robertson had the away supporters on their feet with a powerful 35-yard strike within moments of the restart.

The visitors voiced their own calls for a spot­kick after an hour, when Tidman dropped a cross under pressure from Mark Robinson, forcing defender Steven Haslam into a rash challenge from the incoming Michael Nelson. The calls were waved away by the staunch Butler. Pools: Provett, Barron, Westwood, Nelson, Robertson, Shuker, Strachan, Tinkler, Humphreys, E. Williams, Robinson. Attendance: 20,732.