Pool players celebrate a win over Morecombe back in December. A similar triumph this Easter might have just saved them from the drop.

by Susan Jardine

DATELINE, 21 April Easter Monday and a sense of relief sweeps Victoria Park after Hartlepool snatch a vital victory over Morecambe.

Life is seldom dull for Hartlepool fans, who are either fighting for promotion, or indeed scrapping to avoid relegation. This season has seen the fans ride a rollercoaster, as they saw their team rooted to the bottom of league 2 in its infancy, only to surge up the table to the brink of the promotion play offs.

But that is only two thirds of the story, as from a position of relative comfort Hartlepool nosedived towards the bottom reaches of the table and found themselves facing a survival battle to remain in league 2.

Six successive defeats had been endured and as Easter Monday dawned the equation was simple. A win essential, and hope results go their way to afford a little bit of breathing space before going into the last two matches against Plymouth and Exeter.

Yet the match did not start well as Kevin Ellison headed home to give Morecambe the lead in the 25th minute. The only saving grace at that moment in time was the news of fellow strugglers Bristol Rovers being beaten at home by Rochdale, and that Northampton were already trailing against Portsmouth. Northampton and Torquay, currently occupying the bottom two places, but with a gaggle of clubs in desperate trouble as well.

As half time whistles were blown round the country so it was a case of try to calculate where Hartlepool would stand if results stayed the same. Torquay were also losing at St James’s Park, no not that one, the one where Exeter play.

Things were to get a lot worse before better for Hartlepool as Simon Walton was sent off by referee Scott Duncan. Brilliant! down to ten men and trailing at home. By this time Torquay had levelled their match against Exeter, with Northampton still trailing. As it stood Hartlepool would still be two points better off than Northampton with two games left. In other words, plenty of scope for sleepless nights.

But finally Hartlepool’s luck turned as Jack Compton fired home from outside the box on 67minutes. It sparked sighs of relief as Hartlepool now had a chance of pulling off a victory. Hartlepool poured forward in search of a winner. By this time Torquay had taken the lead, but it didn’t matter as long as Pools did not lose.

Hartlepool were rattling up the corner count as Andy Monkhouse made way for Jack Barmby with approximately fourteen minutes of normal time left. Jonathan Franks had an effort saved by the Morecambe goalkeeper. But could Hartlepool find a way past Barry Roche in the Morecambe goal.

Seconds later came the moment that may well prove to have saved Hartlepool from relegation to the Conference as Barmby drew goalkeeper Roche to fire in what proved to be the winner. Hartlepool now led 2-1, with scorelines in other matches still favouring them , but could they hang on. The time ticked by, ten minutes must have felt like ten hours. To their credit Hartlepool did not rest on what they had, Franks and Brad Walker saw their respective efforts saved and rattle the crossbar. For Morecambe Mark Hughes and Ryan Edwards both saw their attempts go over the Hartlepool crossbar.

With the final whistle at St James’s indicating that Torquay had won and in turn dragged Exeter into further relegation trouble Hartlepool fans were now itching for the final whistle. After five minutes of stoppage time referee Scott Duncan finally blew for time. Hartlepool players fell to their knees on the Victoria Park pitch. A monumental victory combined with a Northampton defeat saw Pools scamper five points clear of the East Midlands side with two games left. The cheers from the Hartlepool faithful that greeted the final whistle may well be as much of relief as celebration.

In completing the double over Morecambe Hartlepool have in turn heaped further pressure on their North West rivals, as they now hover dangerously close to the relegation trap door. With two matches left in the League 2 season Hartlepool now require one point to be mathematically safe. That may come at Home Park on Saturday when they make the long journey south to face Plymouth. Indeed it may not even be needed if Northampton fail to beat Dagenham and Redbridge.

Time now for Hartlepool to look to the future, but guys please don’t put us through that again !