Our third away trip of the season is a trip to the north as we venture to Victoria Park, the home of Hartlepool United.

The second-longest trip of the entire season for County fans of around 280 miles could well mean that the Amber Army that make the journey could well end up making a weekend of it!

The seaside town of Hartlepool plays host to Craig Hignett's Pools, who last season managed a finish of 16th - comfortably mid-table in the end after flirting with the drop zone a few times later on in the campaign. The club was founded in 1908 as Hartlepools United Football Athletic Company and historically had a venomous rivalry with local club Darlington until they folded in 2012. Hartlepool is also the first team that Brian Clough ever managed soon after he finished his playing career. Hartlepool’s highlights as a professional football club include narrowly missing out on promotion to the Football League Championship in 2005 with their highest finishes in the FA and League Cup being the 4th round. The Exiles will have to be wary of Pools starlet Padraig Amond, the Irishman only recently captured from League 2 rivals Grimsby Town scoring 30 goals in 40 appearances for The Mariners last term. The Amber Army will of course be looking to cause damage on the road this season, preventing Amond from scoring will play a big part in achieving that. 

The Ground – Northern Gas and Power Stadium
Also known as Victoria Park, the ground has a capacity of 7,856 and was opened in 1886. It has been home to the Pools since 1908 when they were founded previously home to West Hartlepool R.F.C. In 1957, the ground attracted its record attendance of 17,264 for a 3rd Round FA Cup Game against a Manchester United team managed by Matt Busby, which Hartlepool narrowly lost 4–3. The stadium has three stands and it’s the Town End, where most County fans will be situated. The three stands are the Rink End, the Cameron’s Brewery Stand and the Cyril Knowles stand. The Cyril Knowles Stand was named after the former Tottenham Hotspur defender who managed Hartlepool from January 1990 until June 1991. He had built the side that won promotion from the Fourth Division in the 1990–91 season, but had to hand over managerial duties to coach Alan Murray in February 1991 due to brain cancer. Knowles retired in June 1991 after his declining health meant that he was no longer well enough to manage the club and died two months later at the age of 47. The stadium has also hosted a number of England U18, U19 an U21 games and Women’s football games alike.

Last visit – 18th August 2015
The Exiles travelled to Victoria Park last season again quite early on in the campaign and a superb top-corner strike from Scott Fenwick in the 51st minute left Terry Butchers County still searching for a win. Captain Mark Byrne and striker Aaron Collins wasted chances in the game where County “lacked any real cutting edge” reported Butcher in his post match press conference after the game. The games statistics were extremely even, both teams having a 50-50% share of possession and each team also having 3 shots on target each. The Exiles can expect more of the same as this fixture is always a close encounter.

Interesting facts – Did you know ?
The inspiration for the launching of Hartlepool United was the West Hartlepool club that won the Amateur Cup in 1904-05. They had been in existence since 1881 and their cup success led in 1908 to the formation of the new professional concern which first joined the North-Eastern League. In those days they were known as Hartlepools United and won the Durham Senior Cup in their first two seasons. Hartlepool is one of the oldest clubs in the North of England, behind Grimsby Town who were founded in 1878 and Carlisle United who were founded in 1904.

Famous Fans!
Celebrity presenter of Sky Sports Soccer Saturday Jeff Stelling is of course the most well known fan of Hartlepool FC famously celebrating goals live on air on the show and of course visiting Rodney Parade when the two sides met in the 15-16 season. Grammy award winning musician Meatloaf is also a fan of The Pools along with film director Ridley Scott who has directed the well known films Gladiator and Alien amongst others.

Star Man – Padraig Amond
Amond has only recently signed this summer from Grimsby Town, after a hugely successful season as their 30-goal top scorer he was named in the Conference team of the year and snapped up by The Pools in June. Amond can play both as a winger as well as his preferred striker role. Amond spent some time abroad in Portugal as well as his native Ireland and has previously spent time in League Two with spells at Morecambe and Accrington Stanley. County’s defence will have to take extra care in keeping an eye on Amond as he will be out to cause a real threat to County’s back line.

The Manager – Craig Hignett
Former Hartlepool player Hignett took over the reigns at Hartlepool after they were embarrassingly defeated in the first round of the FA Cup by non-league part timers Blythe Spartans. Hartlepool is Hignett's first managerial role at any level having only retired from playing the game himself professionally in 2007. Hignett spent most of his career in England with teams such as Middlesbrough, Crewe Alexandra and a brief spell at Leicester City where he came off the bench and scored a last minute equaliser against Arsene Wenger's Arsenal. Hignett also spent time in Scotland with Aberdeen and in Cyprus with First Division side Apollon Limassol. 

Train - Hartlepool railway station is a ten-minute walk from the ground. Leave the station and go straight up a short approach road. At the end of the approach, turn right and head up Church Street towards the large church. At the end of this road is a bridge and junction with the A689. Go straight across the junction and the ground is in front of you on the left hand side of the road.  

Car - Exit the A19 at signpost Hartlepool A689, Motorway A1(M). At roundabout turn right (s/p Hartlepool A689) and continue on the A689 for 4.3 miles, through the village of Newton Bewley, to the roundabout by the Owton Lodge pub. Go straight on (s/p Town Centre A689) and follow Town Centre signs for 2.8 miles, over two roundabouts. At the traffic lights just past the Blacksmiths Arms on your left, go straight on. At the next traffic lights go straight on again over the bridge into the new marina complex and straight on again at the roundabout into Marina Way. This is the area for the Jackson's Wharf parking. To get to the ground itself continue to the next roundabout and turn left (s/p The North A179, A1048).  Turn left at the lights into Clarence Road to the ground. Should the A689 be closed - carry on along A19 until the A179. Exit the A19 at signpost Hartlepool A179 and turn left onto the A179. Follow signs to Hartlepool for 1.3 miles over two roundabouts. At third roundabout turn right (s/p Town Centre, Docks A179) onto Easington Road. Follow Town Centre A179 signs for 1.5 miles over two roundabouts. At the third roundabout turn right onto Marina Way. At the next roundabout turn right and then left at the lights into Clarence Road to the ground. 

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