Cobblers’ woeful away form goes on at Hartlepool

SLIDING IN - Ricky Ravenhill in action against Hartlepool at Victoria Park (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
SLIDING IN - Ricky Ravenhill in action against Hartlepool at Victoria Park (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
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A well-taken Luke James goal and one gift-wrapped to Hartlepool by devastatingly poor referee Mark Haywood consigned the Cobblers to a 2-0 defeat at Victoria Park.

Town were a shadow of the team that won its past two games and their attacking opportunities were few and far between.

But the course of the game was dictated by Haywood, who was visibly rattled by the noise from a home crowd that appealed for every decision with the kind of anguish usually reserved for women giving birth.

With such pained appeals ringing in his ears, Haywood refereed the game through a combination of cluelessness and blind fear, although it must be said that Northampton were no great shakes either.

Chris Hackett’s ongoing groin injury meant he was unable to play, with his place on the right of midfield going to Stuart Dallas.

The Northern Irishman, who had been unlucky to find himself out of the team after Brentford refused him permission to play at Bishop’s Stortford in the FA Cup, was a lively addition.

Hartlepool v Northampton Town.

Hartlepool v Northampton Town.

But it was the left-winger, Danny Emerton, who provided the game’s first good piece of attacking play, swinging a cross into the box that Jacob Blyth glancing onto Scott Flinders’ left-hand post and back out to safety.

Paul Reid then saw his header go narrowly wide after a low and flat Emerton corner had found him unmarked but standing still 15 yards out.

But Hartlepool began to enjoy more possession as the game progressed and took the first clear-cut chance of the afternoon with ruthless efficiency.

A long ball was clipped over the Town defence who stepped out for an offside flag that never came, and James trapped the pass before firing it under the advancing Matt Duke.

Hartlepool v Northampton Town.

Hartlepool v Northampton Town.

The goal did not spur the Cobblers into action and neither did it settle down the home side as the game meandered along at almost testimonial pace until a ball into the box was volleyed against the bar by James Poole with Duke beaten.

The game was effectively over four minutes after half-time. James Poole embarked on a strong run that took him into the box where he went down under contact from Reid.

Said contact looked minimal at most but referee Mark Haywood had given every decision the home supporters had appealed for up to that point and was not about to break the habit.

Central-midfielder Simon Walton sent Duke the wrong way from the penalty spot to put the home side two goals ahead.

Hartlepool v Northampton Town.

Hartlepool v Northampton Town.

It was a moment that killed the game as a contest, and one in which Northampton never looked like returning to as a serious force.

Hartlepool: Flinders, Duckworth, Austin, Burgess, Baldwin, Compton, Walton, Dolan, Monkhouse, Poole, James

Subs: Sweeney (for Poole 58), Walker (for Dolan 75), Rodney (for James 88)

Not used: Rafferty, Collins, Franks, Richards

Cobblers: Duke, Tozer, Reid, Doumbe, Widdowson, Dallas, Ferdinand, Ravenhill, Emerton, Blyth, Norris

Subs: Morris (for Norris 61), Platt (for Dallas 72)

Hartlepool v Northampton Town.

Hartlepool v Northampton Town.

Not used: Amankwaah, McNamara, Collins, Deegan, Heath

Attendance: 3,617

Away fans: 206