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Hartlepool 1 U's 1 - Durham's View
Monday, 8th Aug 2016 12:46 by Durham Exile

When is a restaurant not a restaurant? When it hasn't been constructed yet! My embarrassment at sending Gerry to a non-existent restaurant (Frankie and Benny’s – other restaurants are available) at Marina Way was compounded when I realised that having changed my mobile telephone number I was unable to contact him immediately. Fortunately, the U’sual came to my aid and one message later Gerry duly arrived at the Jackson’s Wharf to where we had repaired to enjoy a pre-match drink and lunch. After profuse apologies we left the HMS Trincomalee and the Marina now bathed in warm sunshine and walked to the ground.

The weather was indeed most unlike the normal fare experienced in this Northern outpost, warm sunshine combined with a gentle breeze and the water and Marina conjured up sunnier climes and locations.

Gerry’s entrance to the stadium was delayed by the fact that the crowd for tickets mixed both home and away supporters and the office was clearly experiencing both computer and printer malfunctions. Fortunately, he arrived just in time to see Tom Eastman’s exquisite goal. More later.

Having purchased tickets in advance we entered the ground at the Smith and Graham Stand to witness a tremendous turnout of the travelling faithful. 238 all in good voice and many resplendent in the new away kit although the U’s wore their lime green clash kit (which I think is brilliant, no really).

I made contact with Mick who had spent some time in Scotland and was travelling south back to Colchester after the match. It was very good to put another face to a well-known name on the site.

The pitch was pristine, as you would expect in August and the first thing I noted was the attention paid by the Colchester players to the supporters, welcoming them to a new season and perhaps with more than a hint of expectancy. Luke Prosser the new club Captain led the applause for the fans.

The crowd of 4,055 settled down to enjoy the game.

John McGreal had lined up thus:


Brindley Prosser Eastman Kinsella

Wright Slater Lapslie Szmodics Guthrie



Bransgrove, Kent, Loft, Vincent-Young, Sembie-Ferris, Bonne and Johnstone

The U’s were quickly out of the traps and Sammy Szmodics could have opened the U’s account with almost the first touch of the game, sadly he missed his kick. The faithful didn't have to wait long for the U’s opening goal and what a goal it was. Pools failed to clear a corner and the ball fell to Eastman on his trusty left peg and he despatched a glorious precision shot into the far top corner of the goal. 4 minutes and life in League Two looked peachy.

And then the faithful grew quieter and quieter and the U’s seemed to think that they had done enough and allowed Hartlepool to gain some possession.

Mr Tierney the referee was doing his best to help the home side and after some Monkey business on the right wing when Drey Wright was clearly fouled, he waved play on, the ball was chipped into the penalty area and the dangerous Nathan Thomas was adjudged to have been tripped by Szmodics. The ref could barely contain himself such was the speed that he pointed to the spot.

The odious Paynter sent Big Sam the wrong way and rolled the ball into the right hand corner. He then stood in the centre of the goal staring and mouthing words to Big Sam. The Monkey Hangers had equalised in what was their one and only chance of note for the entire half.

Half time was enjoyed without recourse to the pies. My pre-match lunch of sausage and mash had sustained me. The start of the second half brought no changes and the U’s were now attacking the end where the hordes of the faithful, were encamped.

The fiery Craig Slater fired over from an acute angle but the game remained tied at 1-1.

JM made his first change on 62 minutes. The lack lustre and totally ineffectual Chris Porter was replaced by Denny Johnstone. Frankly it was criminal that Johnstone had not started the game. His contribution was immediate. He had pace, commitment and considerable skill. He chased down a ball near the corner and won the ball before forcing a corner. He was desperately unlucky not to score when winning the ball from Slater’s free kick and heading the ball down powerfully but the ball bounced over the bar.

Johnstone then won a ball near the right hand corner flag and put over a teasing cross for Szmodics to head narrowly wide.

The tiring Wright was substituted by Dion Sembie-Ferris after 70 minutes and it was he who won the ball and rolled it across to Kurtis Guthrie who fired into the side netting when a diagonal shot across the face of the goal would have been better.

Sembie-Ferris then tried to score at the near post forcing a good one handed save from Carson.

The live wire Szmodics was replaced on 87 minutes by Bonne who really should have enjoyed longer on the pitch. But to JM’s credit he made three attacking substitutions and was looking for the winner.

Mr Tierney played 2 mins and 26 seconds of the allotted 3 additional mins which somewhat summed up his afternoon. Always coming up short. I hope that we will not be seeing too much of him this season.

So a draw to start the season. One point that could be vital at the end of the season but I couldn’t help thinking that we had let two points get away.

Plenty of positives from the game.

Sam Walker’s return was most welcome. He had little to do but made the saves when called upon. No fault for the penalty.

Richard Brindley is a big favourite of mine but Mick and Gerry both pointed out that he failed to defend when the dangerous Thomas was marauding down the wing.

Luke Prosser looks a nailed on captain, authoritative and very comfortable on the ball.

Tom Eastman was assured as always and his goal was sublime.

Lewis Kinsella looks an accomplished left back and enjoyed his debut.

Craig Slater fitted into the midfield and looked very comfortable with and without the ball.

Tom Lapslie and Sammy Szmodics covered the ground and both played telling passes.

Curtis Guthrie looks, in my view, better in the centre than on the wing, and it was a shame that he fluffed his lines when the goal was gaping towards the end of the game.

Denny Johnstone although only playing 28 minutes was my MOTM. Sharp, energetic, skilful and very unlucky not to open his account. Looks to have 20 goals in him for the season.

Dion Sembie-Ferris will trouble better defences this season.

Doug Loft was perhaps unlucky not to get any match minutes but I think that says much about the quality of the squad that JM has assembled.

A decent start to the season. Brighton will be a good test to see where we are likely to figure at the end of the season. Personally I think that top seven looks almost a certainty.

Up the U’s

Photo: Action Images

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