Pools suffering a horror start to the season

Final act? Luke James wins a header

Final act? Luke James wins a header

First published in Sport
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THREE games, three defeats in League Two. Back to back home reverses by the same scoreline in the space of four days. The main striker wants away amid interest from Peterborough and the manager’s top defensive target has gone elsewhere.

Fair to say Hartlepool United have enjoyed better openings to the season.

Luke James slapped a transfer request in on Monday, as talk comes of Posh tabling a £1m bid, who last night confirmed their interest. Posh have also signed Christian Burgess, the Middlesbrough defender who Colin Cooper was desperate to get back to Victoria Park after last season’s loan spell.

Off the pitch it’s not clever. And it’s not much better on it either. Pools have not lost their opening three Football League games since the 1950/51 season. And boy, there's been some desperate seasons since then.

Of James, Cooper said: “Luke handed his request in, we acknowledge it, but we can’t do anything until we decide what to do. Hopefully we will get to sit down with him and talk.

“There has not been a bid of a million pounds made.’’

And on his hunt for new signings, he added: “The most obvious one is we thought of getting Christian back, but Peterborough have bought him. So that’s a disappointment and we would have loved him back here .The opportunity came, Boro wanted to sell, Peterborough wanted to buy him and I asked him some honest questions and he wanted to step up a level.

“I’m waiting to hear from a couple of others now and we can only make the phone calls and try.’’

Following the insipid nature of the home defeat to Bury, Pools couldn’t afford to get off to a bad start. So they did just that, conceding from a familiar area.

Luke Howell got goal side of Darren Holden, in behind the left-back, who got back to cover, but got a touch to the attackers shot.

That meant it spun across Scott Flinders into the net.

From then on to half-time, Pools responded positively.

Jon Franks twice had good openings, and twice squandered them. Goals in pre-season were easier to come by for the forward.

Bradley Walker’s free-kick landed deep at the far post, but Franks screwed wide.

He was then picked out by Ryan Brobbel, the on loan Middlesbrough winger being Pools’ liveliest performer and he created a clear opening only for Franks to blaze over.

Bates, whose mistake against Bury proved costly last weekend, needed to win possession in a dangerous area from scorer Howell.

The captain has yet to settle in League Two and again looked too uneasy at times last night, holding a deep defensive line.

At  the other end, Pools could have levelled just before the hour. One problem against Bury was picking out the wrong pass in the area.

Last night Michael Woods, in for the injured Tommy Miller, had the ball on the touchline after getting the better of goalkeeper Liam O’Brien, but failed to find a striker in the area and Walker gave his all to get into the area to collect the loose ball.

James saw his shot from 20 yards tipped over.

But a minute later it was game over.

Cureton held up possession on the counter-attack, waited for a willing runner to join in and he got one in Abu Ogogo who finished. “A Bryan Robson type goal,’’ said Daggers’ assistant Warren Hackett.

Pools had a shot saved by substitute Marlon Harewood and Neil Austin, joint top scorer after his penalty at Port Vale last week, had a overhead kick well saved.

But Pools aren’t capable of scoring two goals in a game. It was a problem that dogged them last season and one which hasn’t been resolved.

Cooper admitted: “Confidence is an issue, I’ve spoke about that in the dressing room. Confidence comes in different ways. One or two might be lacking in that. Some showed me they have the right ingredient to get on the ball and play.

“At the minute we are struggling. We haven’t scored in the league and conceded five and we need to turn that ratio around and quickly.

“Confidence is a massive thing in football, it goes up and down, high and low. When it’s low it takes a lot to be brave. There’s some harsh lessons to be learned at the moment.

“We conceded after five minutes and conceding cheap goals doesn’t give you a foothold. The two challenges are to be more resolute and be more clinical in front of goal at the other end.’’

 

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