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Cooper sees the big picture of improvement at Pools
Final Score: Hartlepool United 0 Southend United 1
GIVEN football is, as they say, a results-based business, it’s little wonder Colin Cooper admitted his young players were feeling a bit down come 5pm on Saturday.
Hartlepool United had just lost at home to Southend, ten-men Southend in fact. And the team that bagged an average of less than one a game last season, has yet to get off the mark in two League Two games.
“As someone new into this job, I’ll have to learn of frustration,’’ admitted Cooper.
But this wasn’t like the Pools of last season. The blank remains the same, as do too many of the players, but there was more than enough shown to prove that Cooper and his right-hand man Craig Hignett are stamping their mark on things and making improvements.
Pools rather battered Southend. They had 14 attempts at goal and dominated territorially.
They switched tactics, formations and players to have a go at getting something, but there’s that one key ingredient missing: goals.
And Cooper and Hignett will work everything they can do to and put an end to the problem.
To a certain extent this game had characteristics of the Rochdale defeat – the oppositions goal came from a defensive lapse, while chances created went begging.
There’s no glossing over failings for Cooper, there’s no ranting and raving like his namesake did on too many occasions last season.
It’s a measured approach and it is to be hoped supporters adopt the same outlook.
“They are young lads, an honest bunch and are really down,’’ he admitted. “They huffed and puffed and are down because they couldn’t get at least an equaliser.
“As young players they have to keep believing in what we are trying to do and we will get there and be OK, but we may take knocks on the way.
“On the whole they have taken things on board, but we have to find a way of getting on the end of deliveries into the box.
“Not every time, sometimes Jack and Franksy have to make the decisions of what kind of cross to put in.
“If there isn’t a cross to be had, then find a way to pick a way through rather than getting a shot off. Pass, slide someone in.
“We will keep going and I’m disappointed, frustrated, but I genuinely believe we will be fine.’’
The goal came on five minutes. Darren Holden’s clearance was shanked to the edge of the penalty area where winger Will Atkinson collected the ball. He went past the left-back and picked out Freddy Eastwood who steered the ball into the net.
It was a big blow to lose a goal so early into Cooper’s home tenure given the Victoria Park failings of last season and the campaign before that.
But, encouraged by Cooper to play with a freedom, they didn’t fall into their old habit of going into their collective shells.
Instead they pressed the visitors back and utterly dominated the second part of the first-half.
James Poole can take heart from his performance and his willingness to run at the defence from deep was a prominent factor throughout.
He had two goalbound shots saved and a piece of tidy skill set up Jon Franks for a chance which should have been converted at the far post.
Hartlepool’s Jonathon Franks and Southend’s Ben Coker give chase
The Shrimpers were down to ten-men on half-time when Barry Corr was red-carded. He tangled with Jack Baldwin, clipping him from behind, but there was nothing violent or malicious in his actions to warrant being sent-off. Referee Mark Brown appeared to make the decision on the advice of Darlington-based assistant Thomas Rogers.
It doesn’t need a DRS system, hot spot or snickometer to work out that any appeal against the red card would be successful.
Against the ten men, Pools, who had altered their system and way of playing when Antony Sweeney hobbled off with a calf strain, kept at it.
Simon Walton had a far more positive game in central midfield, prompting Pools and working neatly in tandem with the impressive Bradley Walker.
But they didn’t get enough balls into the danger zone to threaten and, after they introduced Steve Howard up front for a physical presence, never really worked out how to use him.
Howard’s arrival was greeted by as many cheers as heckles and he had a chance to shut the moaners up when played into the area by Poole, only to stretch and the chance was gone.
It was an opening a fit Howard would have smashed home.
“Stevie came on and he realises he has to win everyone over,’’ admitted Cooper. “The way to do that is keep working up to match fitness and then score goals – that will turn the crowd. And it’s what he wants to do, he wants to get fitter to make the people believe he is the player he can be and wants to be.
Hartlepool’s Jack Compton outjumps Will Atkinson
“We want him on from the start and keep working with him closely, but he knows his body better than anyone, so we will use him how we can.
“However we find a way into the box, he will be a constant threat and he will find the extra yard to get into the box and finish the sort of chance he was presented with.’’
L Pools were without winger Andy Monkhouse after his wife gave birth over the weekend.
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