Football / FA Cup: Coppell bemoans loss of control

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Hartlepool United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Crystal Palace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

A REFEREE can only give what he sees and in the murk at the Victoria Ground on Saturday you had to feel some sympathy for Dermot Gallacher. If the Match of the Day cameras confirmed that the Oxfordshire official's award to Hartlepool United of a match-winning penalty after 82 minutes was, at best, a dubious decision, television gave little impression of how appalling the conditions were.

While the thickening fog was never bad enough to threaten the match, Hartlepool's humble floodlights were barely able to penetrate the gloom. If the manufacturers of the BBC's cameras are looking for a testimony to their light-enhancing qualities, they need look no further than at a videotape of this match.

The icy pitch, which had players losing their feet from the start, did not help either. Gallacher's decision to give the game the go-ahead must have been marginal. Sand had been liberally spread over the surface, but underneath the pitch was hard and slippery.

Both the light and the pitch had deteriorated badly by the time Nicky Southall, the Hartlepool winger, fell as he tried to go past Richard Shaw on the edge of the penalty area. Television suggested that Southall had tripped as he ran into Shaw, who was attempting to get out the way. Southall also seemed to start falling outside the area.

'If that had been given against me I would have been upset,' Alan Murray, the Hartlepool manager, said. Steve Coppell, his Palace counterpart, insisted he did not begrudge Hartlepool their win, but said: 'If that was a penalty then there are six or seven penalties in every match.'

If Palace had cause for complaint at the decision, Andy Saville's successful penalty was reward for a determined second-half display by Hartlepool. The Premier League side, fresh from a run of six successive victories, had created four clear scoring opportunities in the first 30 minutes, but by midway through the second half the Second Division team were in command. 'We just lost control of the game,' Coppell admitted.

Playing a measured passing game, Hartlepool were well organised in defence, combative in midfield and had pace and strength in attack. Lenny Johnrose had three good chances to score in the second half as Hartlepool exploited Palace's habit of ball-watching under pressure from crosses.

Having matched their best FA Cup run by reaching the fourth round, Hartlepool now return to the task of trying to win promotion to the First Division. Next season they could even play League football against an old boy who gained his first managerial experience at the Victoria Ground, one Brian Clough.

Goal: Saville pen (82) 1-0.

Hartlepool United: Jones; R Cross, P Cross, Gilchrist, MacPhail, Emerson, Johnrose, Olsson, Saville, Honour, Southall. Substitutes not used: Peverell, Gallacher.

Crystal Palace: Martyn; Humphrey, Shaw, Coleman, Young, Bowry, Osborn, Thomas, Armstrong, Rodger, McGoldrick. Substitutes not used: Sinnott, Watts.

Referee: D Gallacher (Oxon).