10 years ago - Walker buries the U's at The Abbey
Feature by INOIT
Updated Tuesday, 28th February 2012
IT was hard not to feel sorry for the steward - an old bloke in a bright yellow jacket - who showed me to my seat at the Abbey Stadium.
"Reporter are you, son?" he grunted, with the air of a man who's seen a game too many.
"I'll write your report for you. We'll play well for a bit and then you'll hammer us."
He sighed before trudging off, no doubt to cheer other fans with his optimism.
He has my sympathy, though. The U's are bottom of the table, devoid of confidence and seem to be waiting for relegation to save them from further punishment.
The fact that Pool won easily and yet Steve McMahon could afford to come out of the dressing room and say: "This might sound funny but we didn't play well," speaks volumes about the standard of the opposition.
Macca's side were playing at about 60 per cent and yet still eased to a comfortable win, which bodes extremely well for the repeat clash in the LDV Vans Trophy final next month.
Yet Pool still had to go out and win last night.
Two goals from Richard Walker 10 minutes either side of half-time settled the contest.
The 24-year-old has now struck five in four games and is oozing confidence.
John O'Kane, again playing at full- back in place of the injured Danny Coid, scored a superb third to round off the scoring and complete a solid, no-frills performance.
It's just a pity Scott Taylor didn't get in on the scoring act. The former Stockport man was superb, and his running and enthusiasm has added another dimension to Pool's attack.
He has to watch his discipline, though. Already suspended for next Tuesday's Northampton match, Taylor was booked again for dissent last night.
O'Kane, another player who sees yellow too often and who is also banned soon, was also carded.
But with John Hills excellent on the left and Lee Collins tackling as if his life were at risk, the Seasiders did enough to keep the excellent away contingent of 277 loyal supporters entertained.
And what made it easier was that Macca's men had a decent pitch to play on – something they don't get at home.
"As soon as we arrived and saw the surface, we were rubbing our hands together," revealed McMahon.
"It was perfect for us, and even though we didn't play particularly well it was a convincing win."
The Pool boss should dedicate this victory to the firm of Cambridge structural engineers who made sure last night's contest went ahead, allowing Pool to rack up three points.
They worked through the day to repair a hole in the Main Stand roof, caused by galeforce winds which blew off panelling on Monday night.
But for their hasty patch-up job, the game would have been cancelled. Well done, chaps. We owe you one.
Cambridge started well and put the Seasiders' defence under pressure early on. Lively left winger Danny Jackman caused problems and should have done better on 10 minutes, when he dispossessed Lee Collins on the edge of the box but shot wide.
Hills was Pool's best player at the start, driving down the left flank and sending in some thumping centres which, on another day, could have given John Murphy a hat-trick.
Twice excellent last-ditch challenges from first Brian Reid and then O'Kane saved Pool before the visitors opened the scoring.
And what a Fred Karno's job it was.
Taylor overhit a pass to Walker, who (and huge credit to him) kept chasing even when full-back Fred Murray played it back to experienced Cambridge keeper Lionel Perez.
The former Premiership star – now 36 and looking it – controlled the ball, ran to punt it upfield and slipped.
He regained his feet and met the on-rushing Walker in a 50-50 challenge. The ball fell to Murphy, whose shot was somehow blocked by the now desperate Perez, but Walker reacted first and managed to toe-poke the looping deflection into the goal.
Hardly a classic but very welcome nonetheless.
Walker was delighted. He spent a loan spell at Cambridge three seasons ago and helped them gain promotion. This time he was virtually sending them back down.
Wellens hit a volley wide and Walker headed into Perez's hands before a half-time interval which produced an amazing sight – a mother and child eating ice cream.
On a beach in Benidorm, fair enough; not on a sub-zero night in a rickety stand with a hole in the roof thanks very much.
They were still licking the raspberry topping when Martin Bullock (on for the injured Murphy) jinked into the area and unselfishly laid the ball to Hills, who should have done better with a shot which was blocked.
It was only brief respite for Cambridge, who were now under heavy pressure from a Pool side much improved from a mediocre first half showing.
On 55 minutes,
Walker got his second …
and how he deserved it.
He controlled O'Kane's pass on his chest, turned Steve Angus and threaded a superb through ball inside defender Adam Tann and into Taylor's path.
Taylor showed good pace to break clear and beat Perez with a shot which hit the post and bounced out to Walker, who gleefully sidefooted into the empty net.
It was unlucky for Taylor but just reward for his strike partner, who had again continued running forward when some players might have stayed put, content with admiring their pass.
Reid went off with a hamstring injury (allowing Chris Clarke to make his Pool debut) and Cambridge had a couple of half-chances before O'Kane added gloss to the victory.
It was a great strike, O'Kane taking Bullock's fine pass in his stride and, from the right of the 18-yard box, walloping the ball into the top corner.
The home side battled valiantly and deserved a goal, but just when substitute Alex Revell thought he had the ball in the net from a header, first Barnes pushed it onto the post and then Hills slid in to hook the ball off the line.
In truth, though, the margin could have been bigger.
Cambridge substitute Terry Fleming took up volleyball in the six-yard box at one point, literally throwing a dangerous O'Kane cross out of play.
Not only did the referee (who was otherwise excellent) not give the penalty, he didn't even give a corner!
"It was so blatant it was ridiculous – the lad stuck his hand out," said a bewildered but not too upset McMahon.
"But you can't be too greedy – 3-0 away from home; I'll take that any day of the week."