Hartlepool United
Victoria Park

Ground No. 150
Visited - Saturday 8th March 2008
Result - Hartlepool United 4-0 Gillingham
Competition - Coca-Cola League 1
Attendance - 4055

With just three grounds left to visit, the journey towards completing the 92 was quickly coming to an end, yet I still had one of the furthest and most difficult trips left to make, that of the one to Hartlepool to see what was once one of two grounds in the Football League to use the name Victoria as its prefix. 

It was an early start, catching the train at 6am from Wolverhampton, heading first to Birmingham before Northwards to York, changing there and once more at Thornaby prior to reaching Hartlepool at 11am, five hours after starting the journey. Despite the length, it had actually seemed to go quite quickly though, and better than expected, so after getting off I made my way down to the ground in a good mood.

Situated on the edge of the town centre, it’s easy to find, with the floodlights visible from quite a distance away. Once there though, most of the stands are hidden from view, with both ends behind grass banks, which presumably were once the foundations for terraces long since replaced. The Main Stand is visible in parts, but offices and other buildings, including a high wall between it and the road keep it largely tucked away the other side. Despite this though, it is obvious that you are at the site of a football ground, with football murals (not too dissimilar to those at Ashton Gate) displayed along the length of the wall and the turnstile blocks are quite a distinctive design, helping add to a ground that seemed well maintained from the outside.

Having bought a ticket and programme/badge, I made my way back to the town and spent the next few hours there, finding a pub called the Clarendon to watch the first half of Man Utd-Pompey in, before going back up to the ground.

I’d chosen to stand on the Town End Terrace, and after going in was pleased to see that it looked every bit as good inside as out. The Town End itself was a medium sized, modern terrace offering good views and shelter, with a column free roof. Opposite was the Rink End, which was home to the away fans. This was an all-seated stand, not quite filling the width of the pitch, with views restricted thanks to three rather thick looking pillars. To our left was the Camerons Brewery Stand, a two tiered structure dating back to the 60s, with terracing at the front and covered seating raised to the rear. Completing the picture was the Cyril Knowles Stand, a small single tiered all-seated stand that had the tunnel and executive facilities contained within. One unusual feature was between the Rink End and Camerons Brewery Stand, where there stood 3 flag poles in front of the floodlight, flying the Union Jack, cross of St George and a Hartlepool United flag.

Having taken a few pictures, I found a place to stand and the game got underway. Neither side were doing particularly well in the league. Gillingham were filling one of the relegation spots, and Hartlepool whilst higher, were still too near to them for comfort. At first, both sides seemed fairly evenly matched with the visitors having a good couple of opportunities, yet both teams looked short on confidence to produce anything from the chances they did create, evidenced as Anthony Sweeney blasted over the bar when the difficult work of dribbling past three defenders to get into the area had been done. After this opening though, it was the hosts who took the lead, with a beauty of a goal when Andy Monkhouse hit a hopeful effort from the edge of the area, a little out of the blue, only to see it dip just enough to nestle in the far corner to make it 1-0. The second came soon after, following some good build up play from Joel Porter who forced his way into the area and chipped beyond Gills keeper Derek Stillie to put his side 2-0 up at the break.

After the restart, the game quitened down until with 20 minutes gone the visitors seemed to have found a way back in with a rather strange penalty decision from ref Karl Evans after Simeon Jackson was bought down in the box, but only after having got a shot in (that went wide). Arran Lee-Bennett in the home goal, who had had a good game, pulling off some good saves in the first half was up to the task though, and a full length dive to his right saw him keep out Andy Millers effort, to keep the scores at 2-0, although that didn’t last for long when in the 72nd minute Sam Collins headed home from a corner to put the hosts three goals ahead. They wrapped it up in style deep into injury time when Jamie McCunnie curled home a free kick from the edge of the area that even David Beckham would have been proud of, to make the final score 4-0 to Hartlepool. Slightly flattering perhaps, but a poor Gillingham side could have little to moan about.

Throughout the game, there had been torrential rain and howling winds, which started not long after I’d gone into the ground, but like magic, the sky cleared shortly before the end of the game, and I made my way back to the town with the sun shining, before eventually catching the train home.

Overall, it had been quite a good day. It’s been a while since I’d enjoyed watching a game as much as I had this one, and the ground had been a good place to visit as well, so all in all, very much worth the long journey.

Welcome to Hartlepool

The Club Offices

Rear of the Cyril Knowles Stand

Mural outside the Ground

Rear of the Town End

Rear of the Camerons Brewery Stand

Rear of the Rink End

The Club Shop

The Town End Terrace

The Camerons Brewery Stand

The Cyril Knowles Stand

The Rink End

The Camerons Brewery Stand

The Cyril Knowles Stand

Floodlights and Flagpoles

The Cyril Knowles Stand

The Rink End

The Camerons Brewery Stand

H'Angus the Monkey

Victoria Park Panoramic 1

Victoria Park Panoramic 2


No comments:

Post a Comment