MATCH REPORT: Ten-minute spells aren’t good enough for Pools

Jack Baldwin celebrates his goal against Bournemouth. Picture by FRANK REID
Jack Baldwin celebrates his goal against Bournemouth. Picture by FRANK REID

FOOTBALL matches, or even seasons for that matter, cannot be built on 10-minute spells here and there.

For 10 minutes, Victoria Park believed.

They believed the comeback was on, maybe even The Great Escape.

It was, for the first time in what seems like an eternity of indifference and anguish, “game on”.

Jack Baldwin, the fearless teenager, had just equalised for Pools with his first-ever professional goal.

The nature of it - a brave, point-blank header for which the scorer took a boot in the nose - had stirred a previously subdued home crowd.

But now they had a common cause, the lowest following of the season united not just in their stoicism but in a new-found thirst for victory.

As temperatures plummeted, noise levels rose.

It was all-square and Pools had a firm grip on the game as well as their opponents, The Cherries no longer allowed to weave their pretty patterns.

But then came along a by-now familiar foe – the footballing equivalent of self-harm.

This was the sixth home match in a row that Pools had conceded a penalty, five of them under John Hughes.

Bournemouth scored. Game over.

Ah well, it was nice while it lasted.

The last half hour saw Pools cobble together the occasional final-third entry, but the visitors were never panicked or alarmed.

They, like the majority of the eight previous victors to emerge from Clarence Road, did so in relatively comfortable fashion.

Hughes says opposition teams should “know they have been in a game” at the Vic - sadly, at present, that is rarely the case, save for the occasional 10-minute spell of false hope.

It’s a dispiriting pursuit following Pools right now, and a crowd of 2,502 – 500 less than the previous lowest – will be of concern to the hierarchy.

Pools have now lost seven on the spin in their own back yard – that exact sequence saw Mick Wadsworth relieved of his duties last season, it was a trend they did not want to ever see repeated.

But keep the same playing personnel and that is exactly what will happen, it is almost irrelevant who is charged with leading them.

This current set of players have developed a habit – and it’s not a winning one.

So when Sam Collins – exposed by his team-mates - tripped Eunan O’Kane and referee Mick Russell pointed to the spot, allowing Lewis Grabban to tuck home, you knew there was only going to be one outcome.

Earlier in the day Pools had released one of the few players to boast “success” on his recent resume.

Paul Murray was voted fans’ player of the year for last season, clutching at the proverbial that may be, but in the eyes of supporters he is a winner – a rare commodity in the Pools changing room.

His exit has angered many.

Logic behind the decision can be found, not least the potential for new faces, but to lose one of the few who retained terrace trust is a blow to morale, on and off the pitch.

As for the match, which Murray watched from the press box, it was a first-half of visiting dominance.

Tony Sweeney was lost to an early knee injury and Pools were lucky to survive the first 15 minutes without concession.

Eventually, on 28 minutes, with O’Kane afforded too much room to cross from the right, he located Josh McQuoid and the midfielder planted a header beyond Scott Flinders.

There were, in fairness, a pair of gilt-edged chances for Jon Franks and Ritchie Humphreys before the break, but the former fired at Shwan Jalal and the latter nodded wide from eight yards.

Baldwin levelled six minutes after half-time before Grabban converted the deciding goal from 12 yards.

Thereafter it was inevitable.

Next up is a six-hour trek to Portsmouth this weekend.

It could be a long way to go for 10 minutes of excitement.

It’s high time Pools served up 90 for their long-suffering supporters.