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Hartlepool United: Traveller’s Tales

Posted by Rob Brown
Posted on Sat 30 Mar 2024
Posted in News

Traffic was chaotic, every man and his dog, caravan, and canoe seemed to be heading to the northeast. The 102-mile journey north was expected to take less than a couple of hours. Unfortunately, with Rochdale fans heading to Gateshead, Chesterfield fans heading to York, and our own merry men heading up the A19, our plans for a relaxing fish and chip lunch overlooking the sand and sea were soon out of the window.  Every time we started to make progress, there was a car flashing its headlamps trying to get past, eager to join the next queue ahead of us.  One of these impatient drivers turned out to be sporting a Town scarf tied across the outside of the back window, and we recognised the driver as the Cantankerous Shayman, no surprise there then.

With bright sunshine and a few scattered clouds, we arrived in Hartlepool just as the turnstiles were opening. Full price admission was £20 with concessions at £14, and as it was digital tickets only, we were zapped through in no time.  With our plans for lunch abandoned on the A1 we were lucky to find that the tea hut still had a few of last week’s chips left over in the corner of the oven for a bargain £3. They were slightly warm and if you added enough salt, they tasted salty. The burgers were equality appetising, with Tesco Pete scoring them a good 5 out of 10 on the Richter Scale.

Hartlepool’s Victoria Road ground hasn’t changed much in recent years, it has a capacity of just under 8,000 with four individual stands on each side of the ground.  The main stand is all-seater, with terracing available behind the far goal.  Opposite the main stand, you can either stand on the terrace alongside the pitch or sit in the upper tier with a view of the harbour if the football isn’t as good as you had hoped. The pitch was full of grass, it perhaps looked better than it was as there’s a peculiar tilt, side to side on the surface too.

The Travelling Shaymen were allocated covered seating behind the goal. The first three blocks each containing 100 seats were available except for the first two rows.  The stewards were friendly but obviously unaware of the size of the travelling support. Their attempts to get people to sit in alphabetical order looked doomed from the start. Eventually, as the atmosphere built and the songs started during the warm-up, one of the two taped off rows at the front was swamped as people looked for a seat. The enigmatic Denzil offered his advice to the supervisor with a ludicrous suggestion of opening one of several empty blocks of seats at the other end of the empty stand, he was told on no uncertain terms that stewards were trained professionals and knew what they were doing.  In fairness, shortly after the game started, with people stood on every stairwell, the penny finally dropped, and the 474 travelling Shaymen were given the required space, genius!

The first half was fairly even but not spectacular. Hartlepool had the best chance with Johnson saving just in front of us from a well hit shot from the corner of the six-yard box.  Up the other end, the Shaymen had a few shots from distance but didn’t really test the keeper too much. The second half was like the first, chances were few and far between. We had one off our line at the far end, the Hartlepool fans’ cheers were cut short at the last moment, they seemed sure it was going in.

We had some decent spells of pressure and worked well with a high press on the home defence.  The only issue was that anytime a challenge was made for the ball, the referee blew his whistle much to the frustration of our support. A penalty was awarded to the home side after possession was lost just outside the box. An attempt to pinch the ball back as the Pool’s player entered the box was mistimed, a clear decision for the referee.  The goal was scored and was perhaps against the run of play. Town had a decent shout for a penalty too, a ball flew across the six-yard area with two players missing it by inches, one of our players was clearly pulled back but the travelling faithful were the only ones to see it. Johnson came up for a few late corners and free kicks, but the home side held on for the three points.

Driving back and we reflected on one of those days, it happens in football at times. Neither team really deserved the three points, we certainly didn’t deserve to lose. We’re still in the play-off hunt though and it’s all still to play for.

Next up and we’re on the telly again with a trip to Kidderminster, bet we take a few too.

Miles on the road 6552, goals on the road 23

Read more posts by Rob Brown