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  • Writer's pictureHead Scout

Super Kevin Phillips

Hartlepool United 3-2 Altrincham (National League)

It’s been eleven days since my last match. On Tuesday last week I reached Lutterworth before hearing my game between Cheshunt and Margate was called off. Over the weekend I took the wife, dog and in-laws to Norfolk, the nearest I got to football was passing the idyllic home of Wells Town on the stunning harbour front of Wells-next-the-Sea. Although I did watch a bit of Brentford v Liverpool in an Irish Pub in Hunstanton.

I’m off to another harbour town tonight, Hartlepool United host Altrincham having picked up some points under Kevin Phillips. Since my last visit to the Victoria, the Pools have had three wins and a draw under the former Sunderland striker’s stewardship. Whilst Alty have been going well under Phil Parkinson, that was until the weekend, when a run of three straight wins came to an end with a 2-0 defeat at Aldershot.

I’ve had a car valet ahead of my journey, I’m up the road at 3pm, through the school-leaving traffic of Nottingham towards the M1 and M18, up the A1 and off at Thirsk along the A168 and A19 to Middlesbrough ahead of hitting the A689 to Hartlepool where I arrive shortly after 6pm.

The Venue

Having been here only a few weeks back, I’m parking on the Lancaster Road which is a short five-minute walk to the stadium, across Middleton Road and down Clarence which runs parallel with the train tracks, closed for thru traffic with the away team bus plonked outside.

The stadium is on the right, lit up by huge floodlights as I walk into reception and get my ticket, before walking around the back of the Rink End, through the car park to the turnstiles of the Nirmax Stand, where the press boxes are at the back.

It’s a lovely view, set back and out of trouble, a long desk with plug sockets and tube lighting, a wooden partition separating you and the fans below, the two white roofed stands behind each goal and the Cyril Knowles stand opposite.

I’m off for a cuppa as I’ve a free hot and cold drinks voucher so head below the tiers where I also grab a steak pie. I’ve added milk to my PG tips brew and taken a bite, but the pie is ice cold. Not one to complain, usually, I’ve no choice but to send it back. “Your pies freezing” I say to the woman behind the counter. She replies, “Do you want a cheeseburger instead?” I tell her “I’ll have a hot dog”.

The Game

Back up stairs, I’m going through the teams where I notice Altrincham are without five of arguably their best players since my last viewing of them, all on the bench are Newby, Amaluzor, Baines, Linney and Conn-Clarke. All dropped from the weekend’s defeat, it stinks of the Manager ‘making a statement’.

With that in mind I have Hartlepool as favourites, as I tell their press guy who hands me the team sheet “this is good news for you lot”.

But the match itself does not start to plan. Altrincham with their replacements are strong, dominant, they control proceedings, passing between themselves, Mooney cutting in off the right looks a nuisance whilst Isaac Marriott is spraying balls all over the place. They’ve had a couple of sniffs before the half hour when Matty Kosylo sets his sights from range, he hits one low from distance which is through a crowd and is parried up into his own net by Joel Dixon who should have done better.

The Score

It’s what the visitors deserve as Hartlepool are booed off by their own fans at the break, but a tweak in their formation from 4-2-3-1 to 4-1-2-1-2 has Joe Grey move up front and make instant impact alongside Manny Dieseruvwe.

Within minutes of the restart Grey latches on to a poor defensive header to get to the by-line and pull back to Dieseruvwe who nets his eighteenth league goal of the season.

Tom Crawford has been busy, much better than the last time I saw him, now in a more central position he’s threaded the ball through to Grey who is taken down by the keeper and Dieseruvwe nets the resulting penalty.

It’s a huge turn around as Parkinson then turns to his bench, trouble is two of his five subs won’t get on tonight. Baines, Linney and Conn-Clarke are all used but the pacey Amaluzor and experienced Newby sit this one out, how Altrincham might regret not having their services to call upon?

The home side look a different beast as they hungrily close down every ball. Louis Stephenson a half time sub has made a huge impact on the right, he’s tackling back to the cheers of ‘Stevo, Stevo’ as the home support suddenly back, rather than boo their boys in blue.

The atmosphere is electric and goes up a notch when Grey crosses into the box, his low centre is played back by Dieseruvwe and is smashed home by right back Ferguson. 3-1 up and no coming back from here.

Altrincham do however net a late goal when a neat move down the left is tapped home by Angus on 90, but Hartlepool see out the game by keeping the ball in the opposition corner, by the time it gets out the five added extra are all but up.

The Stars

Joe Grey who had a quiet first half, switching from left to right wing before being told to go up top, had an impressive second 45 as an out and out striker, an intelligent young footballer who’s creative in the final third.

Hartlepool’s main man is no doubt, Mani Dieseruvwe, who’s a natural born finisher and finished his two chances well, but credit Tom Crawford for a hugely busy match, the former Notts County midfielder was arguably the best player on the night.

Altrincham to their own credit played some lovely football, especially in the first half, Isaac Marriott is a lovely midfielder with a range of passing, as is Elliot Osborne who spread the play on occasion, whilst left back Eddy Jones often got forward well. Chris Conn-Clarke’s cameo too little too late, he has swagger and eccentricity and a certain suave when in possession.

The Verdict

Hartlepool look to be in good hands under Kevin Phillips who did a previous good job in his first managerial role with South Shields. The fans already singing the name ‘Super Kevin Phillips’ and chearing his winning fist pumps after the match.

For Altrincham, the question is how now they bounce back from two straight defeats. Manager Phil Parkinson may have dropped five players to rest them ahead of a busy schedule, he may have dropped them to make a statement, either way it backfired, and he’ll now be left whether to stick with his guns, or go back to what he knows.

The Teams

Hartlepool United: Joel Dixon, Luke Hendrie (Emmanuel Onariase 18), Luke Waterfall, Tom Parkes, David Ferguson, Nicky Featherstone, Brennan Dickenson (Louis Stephenson 46), Callum Cooke, Tom Crawford (Kieran Wallace 89), Joe Grey, Emmanuel Dieseruvwe.

Altrincham: Matt Gould, Lewis Banks, Jake Cooper, Sam Roscoe, Eddy Jones, Elliot Osborne, Isaac Marriott, George Wilson (Chris Conn-Clarke 60), Dan Mooney (Regan Linney 54), Matty Kosylo (Lewis Baines 54), Dior Angus.

7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 20th February 2024, Victoria Park, Hartlepool (att 3,835).

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