Pools Prove Too Much for Plucky Stamford

It was always going to be tricky. Stamford’s trip to League 2 Hartlepool in their debut appearance in the FA Cup First Round proper would have to be either nicked or taken back to their Zeeco stadium for the non-leaguers to stand any real chance of an upset.

But sadly, the long trip north was a step too far and a pipe dream too many as the league side favoured so famously by Sky’s leading anchor Jeff Stelling ran out 3-0 winners.

In fairness, that score line flatters Pools a little. Stamford never really threatened apart from a few sorties into Hartlepool territory but they held on until a precise Nicky Deverdics free kick in the 68th minute broke the hearts of the 505 die hard Daniels fans who had made the journey up the A1.

But after that goal went in, Pools felt a huge weight lifted from their shoulders and a deflected volley from Jordan Richards and a textbook Billy Paynter header gave the score line more gloss than their display deserved.

For a full match report visit: http://www.hartlepoolunited.co.uk/news/article/2016-17/hartlepool-united-v-stamford-fa-cup-match-report-3402552.aspx

The most credit has to go the those 505 Stamford fans. For a club whose home gates seldom leak above 300, to take more than most league teams take north is both commendable and applaudable.

With the score 0-0 at half time, they might have dreamed of stealing something but alas their league hosts had that little bit extra and will now play Port Vale away in round 2.

As per the rules of my quest I now follow Hartlepool, and will make the relatively short trip over the border into Staffordshire for the game against Vale on December 2. But it’s been a joy following Stamford. I was part of their biggest ever home attandeance when Wrexham were the visitors in the 4th Qualifying Round, I made the journey to Wrexham with just over 50 others, and was a member of the 505 who witnessed the club’s first ever appearance in the FA Cup 1st Round in their 120-year history. I sincerely hope they go on to have great success.

For me, next up is a trip to Vale Park, another old fashioned traditional football ground, much like Hartlepool’s Victoria Park. I’ve been there twice before, once, in 1999, when my beloved Forest, led by David Platt, persuaded his old mate Ian Wright to join on loan from West Ham. If I remember rightly, Wrighty scored one of his 5 goals for Forest at Vale Park. My second visit came when Forest were languishing in League One in the late noughties.

As for the club I’m now following, their ground, Victoria Park, really is one of the coldest places on Earth. The wind whips in off the North Sea, and you know it’s cold when even the locals moan!

For us away ‘fans’ there’s no respite from the bitterness. Although the away stand is covered, the gap that runs along the whole stand is just enough for the wind to chill your bones, and at half time, the only respite is in the toilets! The food kiosk and bar is open to the elements. Luckily it was just the cold we had to contend with. Had it been raining or – heaven forbid – snowing, it would have been unbearable as there really is no escape from God’s mercy. I had a steaming hot tray of chips which were stone cold within five minutes due to the cold. How people could even hold a cold lager is beyond me!

For me, should I return, at least I’ll be amongst the home fans whom, by the way, are a friendly bunch. Local boozers are welcoming to away fans in general and even if you want to enter the Corner Flag – the supporters’ club HQ I assume – you’re welcome but are asked for a donation on the door.

So it’s Pools who I now follow, and my visit to Victoria Park ticked off a new ground on my ‘Grounds Visited’ chart. Will I be back? We’ll know over the next few rounds I guess.

Videos and pictures from the game

The teams emerge from the tunnel…

Stamford’s players applaud their travelling fans…

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My ticket for the game

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It’s all about the monkeys up in Hartlepool.

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Shot of the ground No. 1

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Shot of the ground No. 2

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Shot of the ground No. 3, including the Stamford Massive.

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Defeated but not disheartened.

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The Stamford players applaud the 505 fans who made the long journey up the A1.