AT five o’clock on Saturday afternoon, Colin Cooper was tempted to rap on the door to the referee’s room at Wycombe Wanderers’ Adams Park.
His Hartlepool United had just been beaten 2-1 in a game where Pools were denied a penalty, where a Wycombe defender should have been sent off, and where Cooper felt the second goal should have been disallowed for a foul on goalkeeper Scott Flinders.
Cooper has twice this season been to see a referee after a game, at Fleetwood Town, and at Victoria Park when Pools were beaten by Oxford United.
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But despite his chagrin, he opted against an audience with Ossett official Andy Madley on Saturday evening.
Pools should have been awarded a penalty after five minutes when Anthony Stewart hauled Luke James down in the area, but referee Madley was unswayed. Cooper was not impressed.
“The referee said there was contact, but that it was a coming together more than anything,” explained Cooper. ”Luke knows exactly what happened. He was bundled from behind. He lost his footing. The defender's tried to get back, and he can't get goal-side so he's put pressure on to put him off getting a shot off.
“He's bundled him over and it's a penalty and a red. We can't do anything about it. Whether that's right or wrong – it's a fact. I'll have another look. I can't do much about it.
“I know for a fact that if I went into the referee's room half an hour after full time that the answers would be ready, I'm not going to do that. I've done that twice this season so far and it becomes a pointless exercise.
“There’s no use crying over spilt milk.”
Jack Barmby's 41st minute strike gave Pools the lead, but the visitors were hit by second half goals from Dean Morgan and Matt McClure.
Barmby's cushioned volley four minutes before half-time was the difference at the interval, with Pools looking to close the gap on the play-off places and Wycombe fighting the drop from the Football League.
But it was the hosts that looked stronger in the first 45, with the Chairboys enjoying a couple of chances in front of goal, Matt Bloomfield and McClure both going close.
Their chances came after Pools failed to build on that lead in the second half and were undone by Wycombe, who hit the visitors with two goals to sink Cooper's side.
Morgan headed home from Marvin McCoy's cross on 52 minutes, then McClure stooped to nod past Flinders on 69 minutes.
For Cooper, the goal came as a double-whammy. Angry with the referee, but equally displeased with his players who failed to pick up McClure’s run for the header.
“It's frustrating, because somebody hasn't done their job from a set-piece,” said Cooper.
“I believe the goalkeeper has been fouled, the referee wouldn't entertain it. Earlier, there should have been a player sent off, we should have had a penalty in the first half, again, the referee didn't entertain it. I'm frustrated on two fronts, and we shouldn't have lost.”
Pools’ young squad is on a learning curve this season, with a handful of Cooper’s players playing their first full season in professional football, but the manager feels his squad is up to the challenge of making the play-offs.
“We had this at Northampton, we beat Torquay last week, so it's not like they haven’t had this before,” said Cooper. “On Saturday, the game hinged on three or four incidents and that's what happens in football. You get them going for you, you get on the front foot, the goals aren't clever but that's what you've got to do in League Two, you've got to deal with the balls in the box and on Saturday we weren't good enough.
“You're better of winning then losing than drawing two games. In order for us to bridge the gap we have to win games now. And to get ourselves into a position, we played some nice stuff, we got into a winning position and we should roll our sleeves up so that it takes something really special to get back into the game if we want to bridge that gap.
“Did we do that enough? I think we worked hard, we didn't roll over, but Wycombe exerted pressure on us. On Saturday we didn't deal with the balls into the box.”