SIMON Walton refuses to rest on the assumption he has won over the Hartlepool United fans – but admits their support “meant everything”.
The 25-year-old turned the jeers to cheers during Saturday’s win over Notts County as the biggest roar of the afternoon was reserved for his man-of-the-match announcement.
That charts a remarkable turnaround for a player who was booed from the field as recently as the New Year’s Day defeat to Preston North End.
But Walton (right) was a fully-deserving recipient of the star-man prize against the Magpies as Pools moved to within eight points of safety in League One.
He admits the first half of his season was something of a “nightmare”, but even now he insists there is work to be done.
“I’ve gone home before and booed myself and it was a nightmare at times!” said Walton.
“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.
“Getting the fans on my side can only help and the reception (for man-of-the-match award) meant everything.
“But it’s no good if I do that then have a stinker next week – I have to build on that now.”
Walton, signed from Plymouth Argyle on a free transfer by Neale Cooper during the summer, struggled to live up to pre-season expectation. He quickly became a target for the supporters who had grown disillusioned with the team’s fortunes.
But the arrival of John Hughes in November saw Walton restored to the side and the midfielder has gone from strength to strength under the new boss.
He went on: “When I came here I wanted to make a massive impression. 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 I’ve had a real go at trying to turn it around.”
Pools made a great start. Walton bullied his opponent out of possession and fed Charlie Wyke. He, in turn, slipped a pass wide to Jonathan Franks.
Franks crossed and James Poole, despite the delivery having dropped onto his boot just six yards from goal, elected not to fire.
Instead, he delicately cushioned the cross, throwing his minder the most cunning of dummies.
The ball looped in the air, and Poole fired home with his other foot.
There was a home lull early in the second half, during which period Jamal Campbell-Ryce cut in from the right wing before dispatching into the bottom corner.
The formbook would suggest only one winner from this juncture.
But Pools have veered from the script of late and Peter Hartley, climbing amid a crowd of bodies, turned a close-range header just inches over the line on 69 minutes.
From there on in Pools battled hard to hold onto their advantage.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Baldwin, Walton, Humphreys, Poole (James 79), Franks (Holden 72), Wyke (Monkhouse 83). Subs Not Used: McHugh, Luscombe, Rowbotham, Rutherford. Booked: Hartley, Walton. Goals: Poole 5, Hartley 70.
Notts County: Spiess, Liddle, Leacock, Sheehan, Campbell-Ryce, Boucaud, Judge, Labadie (Kelly 46), Hughes, Arquin (Bencherif 77), Zoko (Nangel 81). Subs Not Used: Pilkington, Smith, Showunmi, Mahon. Booked: Leacock. Goals: Campbell-Ryce 52.
Att: 3, 662 Ref: Steven Rushton (Staffordshire).