Roy Kelly Analysis: It’s not the end of the world for Hartlepool United

Devante Rodney scores Pools' winner against Doncaster.
Devante Rodney scores Pools' winner against Doncaster.

End of the line, but not the end of the world.

That is how those of us with a little blue blood running through our veins must look at the world today in the aftermath of an incredible high of outplaying promoted Doncaster Rovers only to be relegated.

Yes, Pools have suffered the footballing equivalent of Armageddon.

But is it the end of days? You would have to say no it is not. The pessimists out there point to York (relegated for a second year running), Darlington, Stockport, and others who have fallen lower.

However, but for every York, there has been a bounce-back.

Cheltenham came back at the first attempt and the year before so did Bristol Rovers, under Darrell Clarke. And look at where they are now, cooking on Gas, if you forgive the pun on this bleak day.

This season Dagenham & Redbridge, utterly dire last season, reached the play-offs, though they lost out to Forest Green yesterday.

Your reporter is not saying Pools will go up and be at Wembley 12 months further down the line.

If today is Armageddon, that would be Utopia. No, they are not one of the teams in the National League. Pools can come back, they must come back, it’s the will of the people.

The energy, passion, unity witnessed at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium brought a tear to my eye and this reporter has had to stand and sit through some deplorable afternoons and nights in my time.

There were almost 6,000 Poolies inside the Vic and if only two-thirds of you pitch up in August for Pools v Maidenhead, then you can make a difference. Hartlepool was United on Saturday and that’s how it’s got to be.

You, the fans, were nothing short of sensational, and so too were the players.

How they performed against the division’s most potent side was incredible, and to do it after going behind makes it even more amazing.

Many of the players who pulled off that victory will be back in August. Even if you wanted some ‘shot of’ to use a colloquialism, it is not going to happen. Granted, new talent, good athletes, strong characters need adding, but there is not the scope for the club to change the entire squad, unless a very generous millionaire arrives in the coming weeks.

So if the squad is going to have a familiar look to it, Pools need a manager who can bring out the best in them. Someone like Matthew Bates.

Will the interim boss get the job? I’m not sure, but Pools could do worse. They did last time.

Therefore, here is a message to those who will be making the decision, chairwoman Pam Duxbury, leading shareholder, Gary Coxall, and head of recruitment, Paul Watson.

You got it wrong in January, spectacularly, please, I pray, consult a wise man or three and run it by them first? This is a decision that, for the good of Hartlepool United, and the people of this town who turn out time and again despite countless kicks where it hurts, you can’t foul up.

Pools need to come straight back. With a full parachute payment at their disposal it will be pretty much business as usual for next season, so they can’t really afford to mess about.

The team did not mess about on Saturday, the shame/irony being that had they performed like this for even a fraction of the rest of the season that we’d not have had the tears that flowed. They were unrecognisable from the side who sank without trace last time out at the Vic against Barnet.

It was do or die for Pools, who went into the game minus Nathan Thomas because of knee trouble.

And the football gods seemed intent on condemning Pools to the chop in the first half.

Carl Magnay was unlucky to concede a free-kick near the corner flag and even more unlucky to have a hand, or rather leg, in the Rovers opener seconds later.

Former Pools star James Coppinger played the ball in for Andy Williams to turn it in from close-range past Trevor Carson. Williams looked in an offside position and when assistant referee Helen Byrne raised her flag, it sparked cheers from home fans.

Referee Mark Brown, curse him, consulted Miss Byrne and awarded the goal, correctly, as the ball had come off Magnay. To rub salt into the wounds, Newport were taking the lead at the same point through Mickey Demetriou’s penalty.

The Pools fans, already cross with Mr Brown, went apoplectic just before half-time when Rovers keeper came rushing to the edge of his box and cleared out Rhys Oates in the process, with the match official ruling no foul.

Pools needed a moment of inspiration from somewhere after the break. Lewis Alessandra looked the most likely figure to provide it and he stung the gloves of Lawlor with a 49th-minute thunderbolt.

A lift did arrive around the hour-mark, Jorge Grant levelling up the scoreline at Rodney Parade, leaving Pools with the task of needing two goals to stay in League Two.

Lawlor was proving an irritation, not just because of his time-wasting tactics, he proved an adept shot-stopper too, diving to his right to keep out a Brad Walker effort from the edge of the area.

But Pools were not to be denied, though the equaliser came from an unlikely source. Devante Rodney has hardly set the world alight since being released by Sheff Wed.

But that would change!

Rovers made a real hash of clearing their lines, allowing Padraig Amond to drill in a low cross. Lawlor pushed it out, only as far as the 18-year-old who calmly picked his spot from seven yards.

With both matches at the bottom now locked at 1-1, could Pools find a winner? And Rodney, who else, sent the fans into ecstasy eight minutes from time.

Amond scampered forward from a Walker clearance before finding Rodney in the middle. His first touch was superb as he got clear of Lawlor, his second better and his third unbelievable as he smashed his shot into the net at the Town End from 12 yards.

It sparked a mini-pitch invasion and scenes of delirium around the Vic. The Great Escape was on, could Pools hold on? They could and they did. Regrettably, Notts County could not.

With added time under way, the taunt from the away fans of “you’re going down” signalled the unthinkable – Newport had snatched a winner through Mark O’Brien. The end of the world?

It felt like it but a United Hartlepool can come back.