Final Score: Hartlepool United 2 Notts County 1
WITH six minutes to go, Hartlepool United were heading for only their second home win of the season and Simon Walton grabbed the situation by the scruff of the neck.
In games gone by, it was more a case of sections of the crowd wanting to grab him by the throat.
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Supporters warmed and responded to his efforts, and the same few who booed him off weeks earlier started singing his name, and cheered when he was announced as man of the match.
There's a new-found spirit and belief around Hartlepool United right now. Walton has a big part to play in it.
The midfielder's chase and tackle - and subsequent fist pump to the crowd on the back of it - was as inspiring and uplifting as anything his team-mates had done for 84 minutes previous.
John Hughes, Pools' coach, has often spoke of the need for a player to lift the crowd and inspire his team-mates, to be a leader of men.
Finally, in Walton he may have found one.
Captain and top scorer at Plymouth last season, Walton's move to Pools had stumbled spectacularly in the first-half of the season.
Dogged by fitness and injury problems, Walton's first six months at the club were desperately disappointing.
But, given a run in the team and with the belief of his new manager, Walton is starting to have a big influence on the side and how Pools play.
Only, however, he admits, after some soul searching.
"It's a relief for me personally and for the team to get that home win and give the fans something to shout about,'' he reflected. "It meant a lot to everyone of us.
"I've gone home before and booed myself. I'll allow myself a little pat on the back after this but won't get carried away.
"I know there's a lot of work to be done to get back to where I want to be and where I should be - I have to produce that week in, week out now.
"The reception (for man of the match award) meant a lot.
"When I came here I wanted to make a massive impression, but it probably went in the opposite direction for me.
"But it was up to me to change that and I've got my head down and had a real go at trying to turn it around.''
Pools are now two points short of second-bottom Portsmouth and eight adrift of the relegation cut-off point. It's not long since they were 15 shy of safety.
With six points from six - the first time Pools have won back to back games since September 2011 - there's some belief and confidence in the Pools' ranks for the first time this season.
The last time anyone left Victoria Park as happy as on Saturday was on Febuary 18 last year. Pools beat Notts County 3-0 that day and Notts sacked their manager on the back of it.
Yesterday, Keith Curle, along with former Pools coach Colin West, followed where Martin Allen left and was booted out by the club.
Losing at Victoria Park must be really shameful for Magpies' chairman Ray Trew.
Pools took the lead when Walton brought the ball out from the back, fed Charlie Wyke who played in Jon Franks in a lively and swift flowing move.
His cross was high into the area, where Poole - when all expected a first-time shot - expertly controlled the ball and lifted it over Jamal Campbell-Ryce in the same movement and then with his second touch delicately lifted high in from eight yards.
Campbell-Ryce levelled on 53 minutes, taking a raking pass, cutting in from the right and firing low into the net.
The wide-man celebrated his goal with a passion, racing towards the Mill House Stand in the same sort of aggressive manner he did at the Town End when scoring for Leyton Orient at the tail end of last season.
He must like Pools about as much as a Notts' manager.
The winger was full of it on the back of his goal and threatened to hurt Pools.
Instead, Hughes changed tack and put Darren Holden on out wide to double up on him and his threat was nullified.
The winner came when Evan Horwood's free-kick was nodded over the line by Hartley. It was the third goal in as many games Pools have scored from a Horwood set-piece and they were strong and determined enough to see it out.
"It wasn't the most dazzling football performance but the work-ethic, tackles, second balls and nitty-gritty was there for us - we far superior to them in that respect,'' added Walton.
"I've been a football fan and I know that a big tackle or closing someone down gives the fans a buzz and your team-mates a buzz.
"We have to keep that up until the end of the season.
"The belief is there we can survive. I'm not one for looking at other team's results, it's all about us.''
1-0: Poole (5, first touch controlled the ball, second touch saw him volley in an impressive goal)
1-1: Campbell-Ryce (53, squirmed in from the right and arrowed a low finish across Flinders)
2-1: Hartley (69, Horwood's free-kick met by the skipper and his header just had enough direction on it to go over the line)
Bookings: Hartley (56, unsporting behaviour); Campbell-Ryce (61, unsporting behaviour); Leacock (88, foul); Walton (90, foul)
Referee: Steve Rushton (Stoke): Wrong to book Walton for a fine tackle and Hartley's booking was a also bit harsh 5
HARTLEPOOL UNITED (4-3-2-1):
7 Flinders: Assured, confident and very competent throughout the game. Was never stretched or under any pressure;
7 Austin: Amid an up and down season, he's performing at right-back now like he regularly has over the years
7 Collins: Kept the Notts strikers in check all afternoon, a no-fuss display in which he was always on top
8 Hartley: Formed a formidable and solid barrier with Collins in the middle of the back four and enjoyed his goal
7 Horwood: For the third game in a row, Pools scored from one of his free-kicks. Had a shaky spell up against Campbell-Ryce but came through it with some assistance;
6 Humphreys: Looked a bit laboured at times and didn't perform to the level he has been doing recently
9 WALTON: Last month he was being booed, this time the crowd were singing his name after an inspired midfield performance
6 Baldwin: No goals this time, and was generally on the fringe of the game in midfield instead of being in the absolute thick of it;
8 Poole: Busy, confident and took his goal superbly with a neat touch and smart finish. Dovetailed well with his other attackers
7 Franks: Roaming role when he can come inside for possession suits him far more than being stuck out wide. Positive in possession;
8 Wyke: Full of running and energy and the support he got from Franks and Poole was a major part of his performance up front against three visiting centre-halves.
Holden (for Franks 72)
James (for Poole 79)
Monkhouse (for Wyke 83)
(not used): McHugh (gk), Luscombe, Rowbotham, Rutherford.
NOTTS COUNTY (3-5-2): Spiess 6; Sheehan 6, Leacock 6, Liddle 6; Campbell-Ryce 8, Arquin 4 (Bencherif 77), Boucaud 5, Judge 5, Hughes 6; Labadie 4 (Kelly 46, 6), Zoko 4 (Nagle 82). Subs (not used): Smith, Showumni, Mahon, Nagle, Pilkington (gk).
MAN OF THE MATCH
SIMON Walton - it's taken a while, but this was the midfielder Pools thought they had signed in the summer. Standard has been set.
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