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Club News

Season recap: Part one

4 May 2022

As we come to the end of the 2021/22 season, Alex Hodgson and Jordan Thornhill recap our first season back in the EFL.

July (Jordan)

Following the euphoria of the Promotion Final in Bristol, July saw a time focussed on behind-the-scenes action rather than much on the field. While the pre-season fixtures began to take shape, most of the attention was on who would be wearing blue and white for the upcoming League Two season.

Brad Young moved on to pastures new, joining Leicester City, while Luke Armstrong and Lewis Cass returned to parent clubs Salford and Newcastle, eventually joining Harrogate Town and Port Vale respectively. Other departures included Ryan Johnson, with the defender joining Port Vale with Cass, Rhys Oates, who moved to Mansfield, and Ryan Donaldson. The skipper moved north to Morpeth to link up with friend and former teammate Liam Noble.

Much of the squad was retained, though, including Gary Liddle, Nicky Featherstone, and Jamie Sterry. Deals were also done for Timi Odusina, Mark Shelton, and Luke Molyneux, all of whom played big parts in the play-off campaign. New signings were also made this month, with Reagan Ogle, Martin Smith, Neill Byrne, and Fela Olomola all joining the club.

The month was capped off with the new kit being announced and with it, a return to stripes. Club legends Adam Boyd and Keith Nobbs modelled the new kit alongside Shelton, Sterry, Odusina, and Killip.

 

August (Alex)

After a quick turnaround, Hartlepool United began life back in the Football League with a home tie against Crawley Town. It would be a good test against a side who finished twelfth in League Two the previous season. Pools were defending the best home record in the country and proved to be a match for the Red Devils with Gavan Holohan volleying home with three minutes to spare and topping off a perfect homecoming.

Pools’ first away trip back in the EFL was a trip to Barrow and this ended in a 3-2 defeat and began a theme for the club, imperious at home, unable to win away. The next visitors to Victoria Park were Crewe Alexandra of League One in the Carabao Cup and, though the Alex were down to ten men for a large portion of the game, Pools were unable to break through the defence and went down to a 1-0 defeat. Back to League Two action and Pools were on much firmer footing, confidently dispatching Walsall and then Carlisle with new-signing Tyler Burey impressing the Poolie faithful. Three wins and one defeat left Pools in fifth in the League Two standings, a very positive return after four years away.

 

September (Jordan)

September saw Pools look to consider their off-field position with appointments to the board and new contracts for coaching staff. First, the board was bolstered by the addition of Adrian Bevington and Lee Rust. Bevington had previous experience with Middlesbrough and the FA, while Rust had already worked with the board on the MOU with the council, the Durham University partnership, and securing an off-field commercial team.

A new contract was finally agreed with manager Dave Challinor after weeks of talks with Raj Singh, with the former Fylde gaffer signing for an extra two years beyond his remaining year. Attacking reinforcements were also brought in, with Jordan Cook and Mike Fondop joining Challinors side, though both have been limited in their opportunities thus far.

Current personnel were also rewarded in September. Gavan Holohans volleyed finish saw the Irishman win the EFL Goal of the Month, while Jamie Sterry finally scored his first goal for the club in the 1-0 victory over Bristol Rovers. Groundsman Dave Brown was also presented with an award after completing 30 years of service with the club. The pitch and overall facilities have been outstanding over the past three decades, with home and away personnel commenting on the pitch in particular.

 

October (Alex)

October began with a disappointing defeat away at Stevenage, who triumphed by two goals to nil despite Pools having numerous first-half chances. The topsy-turvy nature of the season continued as Northampton visited Victoria Park and succumbed to a 2-1 defeat despite taking the lead as Pools won their first match in four. Once again, the struggles continued away from the fans at Victoria Park as Salford City won 2-0, it must have seemed like an away win was never going to happen.

 

That was until Mark Cullen had finally regained the fitness that had eluded him so far. One minute into his return to Bradford City, the striker had the ball in the net and the scene was set. Finally, that long-awaited away win came thanks to Cullen’s brace and an own-goal. Harrogate Town were the next team seeking to end Pools’ long unbeaten run at home and, at half time, it looked like they might just do that. Town, who Pools had previously never beaten in a competitive fixture, were much the better side and took a deserved two-goal lead into the break. But three goals in seven second-half minutes stunned Harrogate and delivered the three points to Dave Challinor’s men. Unfortunately, all of the glory that this comeback generated was washed away as Pools travelled to the capital to take on Leyton Orient and were well beaten with the O’s coming home 5-0 winners.

 

November (Jordan)

The month started with Dave Challinor leaving the club for National League side, Stockport County. Tony Sweeney was placed in temporary charge while his replacement was identified. Recently appointed assistant manager Clint Hill followed Challinor out shortly afterwards.

However, Sweeney picked up where hed left off after being in interim charge before Challinor took over, galvanising the side and inspiring them to a 1-0 win in the FA Cup First Round replay against Wycombe Wanderers. Mark Cullens goal saw Pools get past Wanderers and set up a second-round meeting with Lincoln City.

New sponsorship was also confirmed in November, with Victoria Park becoming the Suit Direct Stadium. New signage, a makeover, and a stunning new lounge all came with the sponsorship, as well as smart new suits for the squad.

While the results after Challinors departure saw Pools lose four of their six games in November, the early-season form and FA Cup victory gave the side plenty of optimism as we headed towards Christmas.

Part two in Saturdays matchday programme. 


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