AMID the mud, blood and thunder of Roots Hall, a 17- year-old kid served up a goal deserving of the grandest stage.
In fact, had it been so nonchalantly netted during last night’s Champions League tie between Manchester City and Barcelona, then we would have been eulogising over its brilliance for years to come.
It was not. Instead, it was scored in League Two. The boy responsible was Brad Walker.
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Pools were trailing and, of perhaps more concern, they were toiling, struggling to get on terms after Barry Corr had flicked the hosts in front during the first half.
The clock was one minute shy of the hour mark when Southend half cleared a delivery to the edge of the area.
Lurking was Walker, collecting the ball on his chest and refusing to be ruffled by the closing defenders. But there was still work to be done and, with an authority which belied his tender years, he dispatched the most sumptuous of volleys beyond the despairing dive of Daniel Bentley.
Afterwards, in the dressingroom, a modest Walker bemoaned his all-round performance.
There was no need. He had won his side the point and deserved all of the plaudits.
“He was disappointed because he felt he hadn’t contributed enough to the team throughout the game,’’ revealed Pools boss Colin Cooper, whose side slip to ninth but remain six points adrift of Phil Brown’s Southend in seventh.
“I just said to him, ‘if you’ve got technical ability like that young man then we’ll take that every day of the week’.
“We can make him better and more reliable in other ways, but I can’t teach him that – it was just brilliant.
“To catch it on the volley before it hits the floor is tremendous.
He is a terrific young player.
“I will accept the things he’s not so good at because he gives us so many more positives as opposed to negatives.’’ If Cooper was thrilled with Walker’s equaliser, which extends Pools’ unbeaten to run four matches, then he was equally heartened by the desire of his troops in their own defensive third, led by war horse Sam Collins who revelled in the bog.
Indeed, with just 60 seconds remaining, it looked as if Corr had headed a dramatic winner when his effort looped beyond Scott Flinders and towards the gaping net.
Collins, though, had read the danger and intervened to save the point.
That had come on the back of countless blocks, clearances and crunching tackles.
And Cooper went on: “They gave each other everything.
“They were having a bit of a chip at each other at half-time but they went back out there and put their bodies on the line for each other.
“It really put a smile on my face, I love seeing my players diving around and blocking things.
“What I saw in the second half was galvanisation and that made me really proud.
“What we say on every away trip is ‘can we go home with something?’.
“It’s not often we’ve been disappointed in that respect but now we’ve got to go to Northampton on Saturday and make sure we come home with something again.’’ Pools might even have nicked it themselves late on when Luke James was sprung clear but, with the angle against him, his waist-high drive was fisted to safety by Bentley.
There had been other chances, too, Walker twice drawing fine saves from the home netminder early in the first half.
But the visiting threat had faded until Walker’s sublime intervention and Middlesbrough loanee Luke Williams had failed to exert the sort of influence Pools followers have become accustomed to in recent weeks.
In contrast, the likes of Anthony Straker were causing Cooper’s boys all manner of problems and he was only denied a deserved goal – which would have put Southend twoup – by the strong arm of Flinders soon after the break.
And that was another sight which would have cheered the Pools gaffer.
For Flinders was back to his best, repeatedly doing enough to repel the hosts as they pressed for a winner during the closing stages.
Darren Holden played his part also, blocking one goalbound hammer on the line, while Simon Walton and Marlon Harewood combined to thwart Kevan Hurst inside a packed danger zone late on.
So while Pools did the dirty to protect their deserved point, it was Walker’s blast of beauty which will live longest in the memory.