IT’S OVER: 96 YEARS AND OUT AT POOLS
Rodney’s salvo not enough
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.”
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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
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