Highlights from games at Hartlepool are generally few and far between with the matches themselves often ending up as dull as the often murky conditions around Victoria Park – a place where the damp and dank sea mist can produce depth-of-the-winter conditions in complete contrast to the rest of the country. That was certainly the case on a Saturday afternoon in April back in 1999 when promotion-chasing Brentford visited the north-west.
Hartlepool United 0, Brentford 1 – Saturday 3rd April 1999
Incredibly, there were still nine fixtures remaining after the early April match and, with the Bees in the thick of the promotion battle, and Hartlepool struggling at the foot of the table, the latter of those circumstances were distinctly similar to this coming weekend’s encounter.
Predictably, the majority of the United Kingdom basked in some early summer sunshine, but with the temperatures at Victoria Park struggling to rise, a cold afternoon beckoned and the dense mist rolling in off the North Sea made visibility difficult for the travelling supporters.
The fans weren’t the only ones troubled by the conditions. The swirling damp air played havoc with Lloyd Owusu’s asthma and, early in the game, the young striker needed to call for his inhaler in order to continue. He explained his problems after the match,
…”I’ve suffered from asthma since I was five and still struggle from it now. The conditions hit my chest and I needed a boost in energy. I can run all game but I do feel it coming on a bit at times and it can slow you down a lot. As I grow older, I’m hoping it grows out of me.”
Bees fans needn’t have worried though because in the 43rd minute Owusu hit what he described as one of his best goals of the season – and his twentieth of the campaign. The match was going through a quiet spell when Tony Folan crossed low from the left. Scott Partridge challenged for the ball in the six-yard box but although he was blocked out, the ball rolled invitingly to Owusu on the edge of the box and the ex-Slough ace didn’t hesitate. He curled the ball powerfully with his left foot into the top corner of the net for a peach of a goal which delighted him,
…”It is special when it’s off your weaker foot. I have been working hard on it in training and it is paying off. It is a dream come true to come from non-league and be up with the top scorers in the division.”
The seventh away win of the season – and the third consecutive away victory – was a well deserved one against the strugglers who included ex-England star Peter Beardsley in their line-up. On a heavily-watered pitch, which made passing football almost impossible, spectators often struggled to make out who-was-who as the mist turned into dense fog towards the end of the afternoon, although the floodlights had been on since the start of the game.
Tony Folan twice went close to extending the lead but also shot woefully wide after being perfectly teed up by Scott Partridge and with Darren Powell and Hermann Hreidarsson, back from international duty, in exemplary form in the heart of the defence, a hard-earned victory was achieved.
At the final whistle the jubilation was clear to see as Bees manager Ron Noades high-fived, with Ijah Anderson and ‘keeper Andy Woodman punching the air in delight.
Noades was well pleased as his team continued their quest for promotion.
…”It was an excellent performance – we showed good character and some terrific battling in the face of the fog and difficult conditions.”