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Pools find their feet and run riot at Mansfield
Final Score: Mansfield Town 1 Hartlepool United 4
JUST last week Colin Cooper admitted that the ten-game mark was a first real benchmark of the table and how the season could shape up.
The League Two listings may not still look brilliant – Hartlepool United are sixth bottom on nine points – but the tenth game set the standards for the 36 to follow.
And in the coming weeks they will be on the way up the league ladder if this show is anything to go by.
Pools scored four goals away from home for the first time since September 2007 when they won at Leyton Orient.
Andy Monkhouse bagged the last goal that day in a 4-2 win and he got Pools off to a flyer this time, before Jack Compton took over with two goals and an assist for James Poole to complete the rout.
Four was a let-off for Mansfield. They had won at Chesterfield last weekend, been eight games unbeaten, and were in third spot.
By the final whistle –Pools were applauded off the field by sections of the home support – they were long outclassed and well beaten. Grotesque wouldn’t even go close to describing some of their defending.
Pools knew what to expect from the home side – plenty of balls hit in the area and a physical approach. They couldn’t have expected the Stags to be so desperate and limited.
Cooper set his side up 4-5-1, after going against the 3-5-2 match up with the Stags when Matty Dolan failed a late fitness test.
It worked a treat. With pace on the counter attack from Luke James, Jack Compton and James Poole and the wily outlook of Andy Monkhouse in support, they were rampant.
The defence, with Sam Collins back in the side, stood up to the test and dominated.
It’s six goals in two away games for Pools now and they’ve not lost on the road since the opening day. If only their home form was as solid …
“We are ticking off boxes all the time and that was a big tick,’’ reflected Cooper.
“In the team meeting the words were 'we know what's coming, are we prepared?' and I have to say we were.
“Very early on they hit the post and that was a scare, but I'm disappointed that a soft penalty was awarded because my players did not deserve a goal against them.
“They coped with every threat.’’
Mansfield boss Paul Cox had made three substitutions by the start of the second half and he managed to weaken his side when he put Matt Rhead, a right lump of a forward, and Ollie Palmer on at half time.
By then Pools were two goals up, and could have been more.
The Stags did hit the frame of the goal early on when defender Ryan Tafazolli headed against a post and cracked the rebound wide.
Pools soon took the lead when Michael Duckworth, impeccable at right back, rolled a pass for Monkhouse to latch onto, pick his spot and arrow into the net.
James took a pass from Jack Baldwin, turned at goal and was dumped to the ground by Anthony Howell. Referee Graham Horwood – who should really have sent off Howell for a senseless first-minute lunge on Compton – farcically decided James had dived and booked the striker.
James Poole cracks home Hartlepool’s fourth goal at Field Mill
“We've scored four goals but here am I ranting about the referee,’’ reflected Cooper. “Luke, I felt, was pulled, pushed, fouled, kicked yet maintained his dignity but gets booked for diving. Come on, the lad's been pulled from pillar to post yet gets booked for diving, not a chance.
“The first tackle on Jack Compton is a red card. If it had been one of my players [doing it] it would have been a red.
“It's two-footed, late, high and lifted him. The referee booked him, fair enough, but by the letter of the law it should have been a red card.
“I said to the ref at the end that, after winning a game 4-1, I should not be angry about a referee.’’
James, once again, never stopped running and harassing. He deserved a goal. Instead, Compton and Poole contributed to the goal of the season competition.
Compton, fed by Duckworth, cut in from the right, picked his spot and beat Marriott. He had already saw one shot well saved and angled a volley over, while he set Monkhouse up for a chance six yards out he should have converted.
Compton then curled a delightful free-kick in after half-time, before feeding Poole to wrap things up.
“I hope they have set the standards,’’ concluded Cooper. “If they are prepared to put their bodies on the line and then are prepared to pass and play when the opportunity arises then we'll continue to create chances.
“Do that, and I think we'll be all right.’’
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