IT’S OVER: 96 YEARS AND OUT AT POOLS

Rod­ney’s salvo not enough

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Chris Dunlavy

DEV­AS­TATED Hartle­pool boss Matthew Bates took a thin­lyveiled swipe at pre­de­ces­sor Dave Jones as Hartle­pool’s 96-year stay in the EFL came to a heart­break­ing end.

Trail­ing to Andy Wil­liams’ firsthalf ef­fort, two sen­sa­tional late strikes from sub­sti­tute De­vante Rod­ney seemed to have se­cured an­other mirac­u­lous es­cape.

For six min­utes dream­land beck­oned, but Mark O’Brien’s 89thminute win­ner for New­port saw ju­bi­la­tion be­come deso­la­tion.

As the whis­tle shrilled and re­al­ity dawned, ex­hausted play­ers slumped to the floor. An­gry sup­port­ers bel­lowed vit­riol at out­go­ing chair­man Gary Cox­all, whose de­ci­sion to hire Jones in Jan­uary back­fired hor­ri­bly.

And Bates, the 30-year-old Pools player left hold­ing the reins fol­low­ing Jones’s dis­missal a fort­night ago, was close to tears as he picked through the wreck­age.

“I can’t put it into words,” he said. “There were tears in the dress­ing room. I was emo­tional. The play­ers were emo­tional. It’s a dev­as­tat­ing day.

“As play­ers, we have to take some of the blame. But oth­ers have been cul­pa­ble as well. I’ve had two weeks in charge and it would have been dif­fer­ent if I had longer. We said that, the play­ers said that, but we only had two games. It wasn’t enough.

“But this club will be here longer than I’m alive. It will sur­vive. It will bounce back and it has to bounce back.”

In the era of elec­tion to the Foot­ball League, no­body faced the ig­nominy of reap­pli­ca­tion more of­ten than Pools. This time, no com­mit­tee could save them.

Two years ago, Ron­nie Moore rode to the res­cue. This time, a past-it Dave Jones proved more Don Quixote than White Knight.

Pres­i­dent gone, chair­man gone, man­ager gone. Court ap­pear­ances and wind­ing-up or­ders. Af­ter ten months of spi­der­ing cracks and a cen­tury dodg­ing bul­lets, Pools’ proud stay fi­nally crum­bled to an end. But boy, did they cling to life.

Wil­liams’ early opener was a bit­ter blow. The striker’s closerange ef­fort was ini­tially chalked off by lino He­len Byrne, only for ref­eree Mark Brown – amid a cas-

cade of jeers – to over­rule his as­sis­tant. Then, with Pools play­ers still protest­ing, news came of Mickey Demetriou’s opener for New­port.

Mis­sion im­pos­si­ble? Not for this club. A sell-out crowd of al­most 7,000 rau­cously roused a re­sponse. Ev­ery Donny chal­lenge was ap­pealed, ev­ery counter and halfchance en­cour­aged.

Notts County equalised at New­port. Be­lief, seem­ingly ab­sent in a mori­bund first half, sud­denly flour­ished.

Lewis Alessan­dra blasted at Ian Lawlor, who leapt full stretch to turn Brad Walker’s vol­ley round the post. Then, with 15 min­utes re­main­ing, Rod­ney pounced on an er­ror by Andy But­ler to slam home

The Vic roared. The Vic be­lieved. And when Rod­ney skipped round two chal­lenges to belt a beau­ti­fully com­posed sec­ond into the top corner, the old place erupted, sup­port­ers spilling onto the pitch.

Alas, their joy proved pre­ma­ture. No sooner were they back in their seats than New­port had re­taken the lead. This time, the Ex­iles would not re­lin­quish it. This time, there would be no mir­a­cle.

So will Bates re­main in charge to lead the fight­back? “We’ll be speak­ing to the club next week,” he added. “Have I en­joyed it? Yes. Do I want to do it in the fu­ture? Yes. Do I want to do it now? I don’t know.” For Donny, there was dis­ap­point­ment too, al­beit on a mi­nor scale. Vic­tory would have clinched the ti­tle, but a fourth straight de­feat since seal­ing pro­mo­tion last month saw Dar­ren Fer­gu­son’s side limp home in third.

“We’ve let the fans down,” said the Scot. “We had a real good chance to win the league but we haven’t taken it.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed, but my thoughts go to Hartle­pool. They couldn’t have done any more.”

HEART­BREAK: Hartle­pool’s Carl Mag­nay shows the pain of rel­e­ga­tion

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

TOO LIT­TLE, TOO LATE: Hartle­pool’s De­vante Rod­ney scores Hartle­pool’s first goal Insets: Rod­ney scores Pools’ sec­ond and fans come to terms with rel­e­ga­tion

YOU CAN’T SEE ME: John Mar­quis cov­ers up

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