December Review - Jingle Bells! - SuddickTheKing
We kicked off the month with three points against the worst side to visit Bloomfield Road for a very long time, Queens Park Rangers. In view of what has happened to them since, how valuable could they prove to be?
Next up another game on Sky away at Scunthorpe Utd. This was a 'must not lose' game. However, for long periods we were second best and it was no surprise that we went a goal down. Our saviour came in the form of their on loan full back, Kelly Youga. Easily the best player on the pitch he had a rush of blood and dived in on Crainey and instantly got a red card for his efforts. Suddenly the game changed and, with the introduction of a lively Keigan Parker 'Pool took the game to their hosts and it was no surprise when Michael Flynn equalised. In the end we just about deserved a point.
December 8th 2007 dawned and with it the realisation that years of waiting and wanting were at an end - it was 'Nob End' away! This was the big one, the game we have dreamed of. It would also be an indicator of how far we had come. On a cold, rainy day on a wet, slippery pitch which cut up from the word go - perfect for a full blooded encounter - this game had it all; tremendous atmosphere, 100% commitment and effort from the players and the right result! Big Ben Burgess outpaced (yes, really!) Mawene and the latter's despairing slide tackle didn't get near the ball but took the player and it was a nailed on penalty. Wes Hoolahan - having missed his last spot kick remember - coolly 'dinked' his shot down the middle and the already diving Lonergan could only look back despairingly as the ball gently settled in the back of the net sparking pandemonium on the Shankly Kop where nearly 3,000 'Pool fans went mental. There was, however, still 20 mins to go and towards the end Preston pressed and pressed. They did have a shout for a penalty of their own which, to be fair, did look inside the box but referee Clattenburg decided that Kaspars' challenge on Mellor was the other side of the line. Phew! More anxiety to come three mins into injury time when a Paul McKenna free kick hit the bar but that was to be the last significant action and our dreams had come true! Yes, we had beaten our deadly enemy in their own back yard. No matter what level you watch or play football, it just doesn't get any better than that.
At the end of the day though it was three points. A huge three points but nevertheless no more, no less.
So our next game, a rearranged one against Cardiff at home gave us the opportunity to build on Saturday's performance. This, alas, is Blackpool and a poor showing enabled the visitors to plunder the points in a disappointing 1-0 reverse.
The mighty Stoke City next at Bloomers - could we compete with a team known as 'land of the giants'? Well, yes and no. Our physical effort and commitment was massive but at the end of the day we were second best to the best side we've seen down here. We lost 3-2 in a game from which we could at least take some consolation.
The matches were coming thick and fast and yet another home fixture - this time against Coventry. 'Pool were in no mood to surrender like they did at the Ricoh and we trounced the weary 10 men (Kyle having got himself red carded for a crazy and obvious elbow) 4-0. What a boost to morale! Could we keep it up? We needed to, the trapdoor still beckoned.
Well, Bramhall Lane on Boxing Day wasn't exactly a 'gimme' fixture and we braced ourselves for a real examination. We would need to be at our best to get a point. So, seven minutes in and Evatt sent off was not exactly the start we were looking for. When Sheff U went a goal up it looked pretty grim. This side - as I find myself repeating over and over again - does not lie down and never knows when it is beaten. A fantastic, gritty, determined and disciplined performance (plus some unbelievable profligacy in front of goal by the Blades) enabled us to score an equaliser and take that point. Absolutely fantastic!
Colchester away - another nervous 6 pointer? Not with these boys! In a thoroughly professional and competent display 'Pool swept the 'U`s' aside with two goals from Super Scottie Vernon.
This really set the scene for New Years' Day….but you'll have to wait till next month for that!
Our season has been like a pendulum with a good start followed by a swing towards gloom and doom followed by an upsurge again. There is a remarkable similarity to last season too - three quick home defeats around this time of year. Last season we all know what happened next - surely history can't repeat itself?! No, I'm getting carried away there. However, January and the transfer window will dictate to a large degree the fortunes of most clubs. Happy New Year?