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Hartlepool boss hopes side can keep winning mentality
CONFIDENCE has, for Hartlepool United, been in short supply for too long.
It’s only in recent games, with results matching performances, that Pools have flourished.
They go to Scunthorpe today seeking a sixth win in a row – the last time they achieved such a feat was in December 2006.
Colin Cooper is working with a different sort of group now, as they play and train with a real zest.
“I think they are a bright and bubbly group,’’ he admitted.
“If I was them at the moment I would not have any trepidation in playing the game.
“Even when me and Craig (Hignett) were quite happy with performances, you guys (the media) would be saying 'you are not scoring goals, etc, etc and you are losing by one goal which has happened time after time' – our job is to try to change that mentality.
“I have to say that, at this moment in time, our mentality is very good, but it can go, just like that.
“It's a good habit to get out of losing games and getting in to one of winning games.
“How do you keep that habit? A lot of that is mentality so they have to remain focused, mentally strong and realise that, as Simon (Walton) said the other night, if they are hard to beat it gives them the opportunity to score goals which has happened recently.
“But as I said that can go in an instant if you are not bang on and our job is to make sure they are bang on.’’ And so, Cooper won’t allow the standards to slip. He has found a formula and system that suits his players.
Playing 4-2-3-1, he has individuals suited to that set-up and on form.
Luke James has three goals in three games, and at the other end, Pools have not conceded a goal from open play since September 29.
“Results give you confidence,’’ said Cooper.
“We can keep using the words and phrases, but I think in order for the players to have belief in themselves the results are what has given them that.
“We've played an awful lot better and lost, that's a fact.
“But at the minute there is a gritty determination, if we can get our noses in front.’’ Pools have won two games in the last week, at home to Plymouth and AFC Wimbledon without playing as well as they have at other times.
The difference now is that they have realised what it takes to win games. They came through a situation which has seen them crumble in recent times.
“That was something different the other night,’’ admitted Cooper of the Wimbledon game. “We got our noses in front and then before their goal, they were pushing.
“Wimbledon got a penalty, scored and then I think they were pushing again for ten minutes.
“But then we went again with Luke's goal and then the cream on the top was Matty's finish at the end.
“Things are falling for us. Is it coincidence or is it that the work the boys are putting in day-in and day-out, might be paying dividends.
“But that does not mean in a month's time that things will be going the same way.
“We have to keep our feet firmly on the ground and make sure the things we've been doing we keep doing.
“Because once you take the foot off the pedal a little bit that's when it will come and bite you.’’ Cooper, who was at the Riverside Stadium last night for Middlesbrough’s game with Doncaster as a Sky Sports analyst, feels the belief he displayed in his players in the early part of the season when results weren’t going their way has proved correct.
“We sat here post Rochdale, Southend, Wycombe, Fleetwood and believed we weren’t a million miles away – I think that’s now been justified,’’ he admitted.
“Mansfield we showed spirit, scored some really nice goals – Exeter the same. In these two home games we haven’t played as well as we have in other home games, but we have won.
“Maybe luck is on our side a bit now and things are going for us. The hard work we are putting in on the training ground is paying off.
“They boys are feeling good about themselves and how they are going about it. People in football who I have spoken to, which gives you a shot in the arm, have said that we are winning games, and we look organised.
“I think for me and Craig that’s a big pat on the back. You have to be organised, disciplined and be hard to beat in order to have the opportunity to score goals.
“Despite not playing fantastic, flowing football at times we do look organised and that’s a nice thing for a manager.’’
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