Hartlepool United 0–2 Colchester United
The Essex outfit come out on top in an end of season dead rubber the hosts would have been keen to get over and done with
The 2021/22 League Two season drew to a close on Saturday and while there was plenty to play for elsewhere in the country, at the Suits Direct Arena in Hartlepool there was nothing more than pride on the line.
Colchester’s season had fizzled out to a fairly quiet conclusion, but for the hosts, the end of the season could not have come quick enough.
Hartlepool went into the final match of the season on an abysmal run. It only had one win in 11 attempts and three consecutive home games without a goal, which culminated in manager Graeme Lee being relieved of his duties just two days before the visit of Colchester.
The Suits Direct Arena (or Victoria Park, the original name of the stadium and the one many fans know it as) has a proper football ground feel to it. With a terrace behind one goal and the bottom tier of another stand, on a matchday, it can be a great atmosphere.
A prematch pint under the Teesside International Airport Stand, where I sat on the first row of the seated upper tier, put me back just £2.50.
The prematch buzz reflected the fact that Hartlepool was safe from relegation and, in reality, had been for some time.
Kick-off came and it was the visitors who were quickest off the starting block with the experienced John Akinde causing problems for the Pools backline.
Hartlepool’s poor run of form looked set to continue when they fell behind on ten minutes. The Pools defence wanted to see an offside flag raised against Freddie Sears, but the former West Ham forward was able to pick out Akinde who fired home from close range.
The frustrations of the home crowd were clear to hear, a crowd that had been in this situation many times in the last dozen games.
Loose passes and the inability to create any meaningful chances meant that the 200-odd traveling fans were the happiest at the break.
The atmosphere was still positive heading into the second half, with the northwest corner of Victoria Park leading the attempts to kick start the home side.
Unfortunately, their efforts had a setback when Colchester doubled their lead.
The Pools backline backed off from Chay Cooper and when the substitute got within shooting distance, he let rip and found the back of the net via the post.
It was a deserved lead, more so because Hartlepool had done little in the way of getting back into the match.
This gave the atmosphere in the Vic a knock, but a hardy few kept the noise going, and even when it looked likely their side would be finishing the season with a loss, the noise kept up.
Hartlepool’s top scorer Luke Molyneux came the closest to getting on the scoresheet, but his curling effort was palmed away by Hornby in the visitors’ goal.
There have been plenty of successes on the pitch this season for Hartlepool. The side has secured its league status and reached the fourth round of the FA Cup and the semifinal of the football league trophy.
With plenty of work to push on up the division next season, it will be important for the Pools not to mess around when it comes to replacing Graeme Lee.
Hartlepool United is a proper football club, with a passionate fan base and an opportunity for upward momentum, and I can’t think of too many better places to watch my last match of the 21/22 season.