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Franks at the double to earn Pools a point
Full-time: Cheltenham Town 2 Hartlepool United 2
SOMETIMES the best laid plans come to nothing. Wary of Cheltenham’s direct approach and, with his side suffering three successive away defeats, Colin Cooper changed personnel and formation.
Pools have been settled on a familiar system and a regular starting XI of late, Cooper’s idea was to freshen up the side.
Instead, they never looked at ease, and found themselves two goals down before the break.
The 3-5-2 set-up was soon ditched as Pools switched to 4-4-2 – even that something against the norm of late.
And, after a frank half-time dressing room discussion, they were rewarded with a show of second-half character as two Jon Franks goals earned a point.
Since losing at Scunthorpe at the end of October, Pools have also been beaten at Newport and Bury. They looked set for another defeat this time.
Just four minutes in, Pools weren’t at the races, and a mix-up at the back from a long ball forward saw them trail.
It was a horrible, messy goal to concede.
The second came when Pools failed to convincingly clear and Cheltenham kept the ball alive around the area and Kemar Roofe flicked in a header.
And so came the changes, with it came a decent comeback.
In fairness, Pools had as many scoring chances as the hosts in the first-half, but it was only after the break when they really pressed.
Perhaps the force of the wind should not be underplayed, such was the force blowing downfield.
“We changed formation because it’s something we believe in,’’ said Cooper. “If you use it properly it can be really effective. There’s two boys out wide in Michael Duckworth and Darren Holden who can express themselves going forward.
“It didn’t quite work and we weren’t able to do it the way we thought it would. We worked on it for three days in training and every time it looked better.
“But if it’s not working, then revert to type, get a foothold in the game and we did that. I felt Cheltenham kept turning us round, that after I felt the system would work.
“I feel we have the players who can play that way and it was something I wanted to do.
“We didn’t cope with what Cheltenham threw at us in the first-half.’’ And there’s the point – no matter what system is adopted, failing to do the basics and make the most of your possession affects any side.
But with a lively strike partnership in Jon Franks and Andy Monkhouse sticking to their task they were rewarded.
Franks first goal was route one. A giant Flinders kick dropped out of the clouds, full-back Sido Jombati didn’t know what to do and Franks nipped in to touch the ball home.
It gave Pools some impetus and, more importantly, belief.
Cooper revealed his players had a deep and frank discussion at half-time about their performance. Their reaction backed up their words with actions.
Pools are stunned as Franks' goal is ruled out
Franks got his second when he wormed his way to the edge of the penalty area and squeezed his shot in off the post.
Franks was tried up front, with Luke James and James Poole given a rest after their recent exertions.
He was lively and could have had four goals. Keeper Scott Brown saved well from a close range header from a Holden cross, while referee Steve Rushton ruled out an angled finish right on half-time for a foul by returning skipper Antony Sweeney.
“Both Luke and James have been brilliant of late, so it’s difficult,’’ added Cooper. “Rightly or wrongly I felt Luke has looked like he’s had a hard run of late. Against Coventry he was up against three centre-halves, but put a really good shift in.
“We wanted to try things and freshen it up a bit and more and more teams are looking to counter what Pooley has been doing so that was in our minds.’’ He added: “Franksy had his share of chances. Luke has been terrific and he might not thank me for leaving him out, but Franksy has been desperate for a chance up front.
“We’ve used him in a few different positions, he’s wanted to be there. We gave him a chance there at Torquay and changed after ten minutes or so. He can shoot off both feet and has pace.
“He got two, had one disallowed and the keeper made a good save off him. I felt he was putting pressure on them and getting two is a good contribution.’’
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