Two ends of the League 2 spectrum were on show on Saturday when Hartlepool faced Northampton at Victoria Park.
In a division where any team can beat anyone, Northampton proved on this occasion to be some distance from their opposition who coasted to victory.
League 2 comprises of roughly 15 teams that will hope to provide a dent on the promotion and play off places, the rest remain pretenders. Consistency is the main divider between success and failure in a division that is decidedly more physical than League 1. Oxford and Fleetwood have been credited for their footballing style amid the much-publicized physicality of Mansfield and Northampton.
On Saturday Northampton visited in form Hartlepool with the local press branding Northampton a “strong and robust outfit”. This description was apt. Northampton’s game plan, comprised by manager Aidy Boothroyd, was to utilize the long ball and then scrap for the second ball. This failed. Besides the first 10 minutes of the match, Hartlepool never had to leave second gear.
A quality volleyed finish from Luke James for his tenth goal of the season followed by a Simon Walton penalty secured the 3 points. The penalty was dubious. However should the tackle have been committed in the premier league, the same punishment would be expected.
A local journalist for Northampton (Northampton Chronicle) chose to blame the referee for the majority of their defeat. He believed the “course of the game was dictated by Haywood (referee)” and the “pained” appeals from the home crowd influenced vital decisions. He took to twitter to sarcastically suggest the referee should be given man of the match. This was amongst 6 or 7 other comments regarding the referee. It would be worth remembering that the referee is the only non-bias person on the pitch.
The said journalist may want to look more closely at his team’s drab performance that lacked any creativity or flair. Northampton is currently the worst outfit to visit Victoria Park this season and once the first goal was scored the outcome was inevitable. Their cynical physicality was almost as bad as Rotherham’s when they visited for the Johnston’s Paint Trophy. Hartlepool coasted to victory against Northampton with a fantastic cameo performance from James Poole the catalyst.
Colin Cooper’s philosophy was evident with balls being played into the feet of the forward line with Compton and Monkhouse flooding the wings. The fact the game was only won by a 2 goal margin is an injustice in itself.
Granted, the referee was poor. But this was not a bias performance by any means. The ironic jeers of the Pools’ fans after 2 blatant handballs throughout the match proved both sides had fallen foul to misjudgments.
Such is the questionable standard of referees in football league’s basement division it is to be expected that there will be poor decisions. It is all but worthless scrutinizing the performances never mind blaming the man in the middle for defeats.
As ‘Pools head into tonight’s clash at Bury, confidence is soaring. Matty Dolan has been secured on loan for another month after impressing since his arrival from Middlesbrough. Confirmation of a financial settlement between Steve Howard and Hartlepool sees the out of favor striker finally leave the club. Andy Monkhouse will sit out tonight’s game after picking up his 5th yellow card on the weekend and Cooper is sweating on the fitness of James Poole and wing wizard Jack Compton.
A victory tonight will firmly place Hartlepool in the promotion shake up.