For six full minutes all was utterly glorious. A rapid counterattack saw the ball fed to Javier Manquillo overlapping on the right who lashed the ball past De Gea as if he was Shearer in his pomp. Cue bedlam. After all the miserable, grinding pessimism and emptiness of the last two years, we had defied the orgy of onanism at the Theatre of Shit and the stand was literally bouncing. We were very much on a bender, and Ronnie was most definitely a sex offender (TF lawyer: allegedly).

It couldn’t last. Of course, it couldn’t. In the last half hour, we had our pants royally pulled down. First, R****** got himself five yards of space off the shoulder of the last defender, gratefully accepted Shaw’s pass, and drove the ball straight through Woodman. Then, given as much time as he wanted, Fernandes whipped a shot from twenty yards into the top-left corner. Finally, Lingard gave the score an undeserved look by slotting home a fourth in injury time.

The first half had been a curious affair. It felt like we were being outplayed and the Manure had a tonne of possession, but they did little or nothing with it, constantly running down cul-de-sacs or playing an errant final ball. Their number 7, in particular, looked comically out of touch, falling over and wasting possession whenever it came to him. Anyone else and he wouldn’t have been picked at all. Presumably the marketing contract requires him to play every minute of every game.

Meanwhile, Bruce had stuck with three centre backs but picked his fourth combination in four games (of course). Out went Fernández and Schär, and in came Clark (again) and Hayden (not a central defender). At least Manquillo finally came in for Murphy, offering much needed defensive solidity.

The attacking 352 from previous games was now very much a 541, with Saint-Maximin the lone and often isolated striker in what became more like a 9-1 formation at times. He was lively and willing enough and tried to spark counterattacks but, in truth, often took too much on and rarely threatened. More encouraging was the midfield. Overrun in recent games, we benefited from the extra bodies. Almirón was everywhere, and Willock finally looked like an all-round midfielder and not just a goalscorer. Meanwhile, Joelinton was shockingly bad. In a match where high energy and constant endeavour was needed, he ambled around and fell over with infuriating regularity. He cannot be picked again.

To say that expectations were low for this one is like suggesting that Steve Bruce can be a little sensitive to criticism. As a result, our encouraging first half – and the Glazer Reds’ welcome ineptitude – was greeted with a mixture of relief, disbelief, and unconfined joy. Ten minutes in and our every pass was being olé-ed by a frantic and feral away end who were also displaying a frankly unexpected embrace of modern gender politics such was their insistence that she had said “no”. #MeToo(n), who knew?

The only cloud was Woodman’s obvious discomfort and hesitancy in distributing the ball. Booed and whistled by the home “fans”, he was visibly unsettled and had to be spoken to by Lascelles after the referee had intervened. Of course, worse was to come.

The clock ticked round to two minutes of injury time, and we dared to believe that we would emerge unscathed and silence the ludicrous man-boys in their pristine, brand-new replica shirts. Greenwood’s shot seemed harmless enough but picked up the smallest of deflections on the way through to Woodman who spilled it straight into the path of the plastic Portuguese wankbot. As he pouted and preened right in front of the away end, the earth resolutely refused to swallow us up and we had to endure the spectacle. Therapists across the North East looked forward to a bumper week of business.

Woodman is still a young lad, and this was the stiffest of tests, but before the season there was plenty of talk that he might genuinely challenge Dubs and Darlow. After all, he’s played more than 120 games now and was the best keeper in the Championship last season. It seemed sensible that one of the established goalkeepers might move on and that Woodman could step up. Maybe he will come good in time, but today he showed that he was nowhere near that level. Harsh it may be, but his errors lost us this match. Whatever slim chance we had of getting a result it was always going to be founded on an impeccable goalkeeping display, and instead we had the opposite. We can only hope this doesn’t scar the lad for good.

Yet again, it seemed as though Bruce had got lucky. The media circus around the match appeared as though it might deflect attention, and the players themselves certainly stepped up and put a shift in. But the final 15 minutes saw the loudest and most sustained calls yet for the manager’s head. “We want Bruce out” was the sole refrain, and our alleged head coach’s subsequent attacks on the local press indicate a man who is teetering on the brink. This is only going to get worse. Much worse.

Matthew Philpotts @mjp19731

Note to the lad next to me who was stood admiringly filming the goal celebrations in first-half stoppage time – get a ticket with your football tourist mates in the home end next time and don’t ever dare darken our door again.

FULL TIME REACTIONS 

Got beat 4-1 and I don’t think it was awful. God I hate these cunts.  Hartlepool Reds, how can you possibly be that way inclined ? Do people have no self respect. Longstaff did well as did Miggy, we’re honking at the back. It used to feel like under Rafa a decent goal would beat us. Not anymore. Why that fat Corbridge tosser wants to stay baffles me. We hate him, he hates us and I think we’re on our relegation cycle this year. Leeds next week. Brilliant.

Jack McLane 

A bit of a stumbling start for Brucies team. Lacking cohesion and the opposition number 7 looking like he’d won a raffle to make an appearance. 
However, the expected goal for Brucies team duly arrived after an error by Woodman on the strike of half time. Harsh on the Mags who’d put up a decent fight in the opening half. Great fight back second half lead to an equaliser from Manquillo but unfortunately we were unable to press home our short term advantage.
Difficult to see but looked like the second went through Woodman to again gift them the lead. Some fella called Ronaldo notching a couple.
A weak effort from Murphy presented the opportunity for Brucies team on the break. 3-1 and game over. 
To be honest, the last quarter became a bit of a procession for them, without us really offering much and they duly killed the game late on to make it 4-1.
In reflection, a harsh score line and we showed some promise at times. However, it laid bare how poor we are going to be without Callum Wilson. Our own number 7 proving he is far from an able deputy.
Good shifts on their half from Almiron and ASM maybe showing that a good coach could possibly get something from this lot.
Ritchie also worthy of a mention for his tireless work down the left.

Steve Wallwork 

Some positives from this game – the workrate and spirit being amongst them and an exceptionally worked goal.ASM and Almiron were top notch and something might be stirring inside Sean Longstaff. But the goalkeeping was abysmal for the two Ronaldo’s goals. If you’re going to stand off Fernandes as much as we did you will invite trouble. I can’t work out what the subs were about and if you are defender who can play a bit like Fabian Schar you might wonder why Isaac Hayden is playing as a centre-half and you’re on the bench. 12 goals conceded in 4. This isn’t good. 

Michael Martin