ANOTHER game, another defeat, another flat performance.
In the shadow of the Olympic Park, where so many sporting dreams were made this year, Hartlepool United again trailed in last.
This at Leyton Orient, Pools’ tenth game without a win, was as routine as the rest.
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They showed little invention in attack and conceded a slack goal at the back that should have been cut out.
That they relied on a 90th minute Carlisle equaliser at Bury to stop them going bottom of League One is no cause for relief.
Pools go to Bury next Tuesday and, the way things are going, they won’t head for Gigg Lane with confidence.
Heads are down, belief is low. It’s promising to be a long winter ahead.
Boss Neale Cooper was honest in his assessment when asked about his future as Pools manager. “What more can I say? I’m frustrated, this is my job,” he said.
“If it happens, so be it, but I have a family like everyone.
Did I enjoy that? No. I get a lift on Saturday and then this happens.
“If you don’t enjoy playing football on a night like this, you shouldn’t be in it. Some of the players didn’t turn up.
“Whatever happens to me, they need to have a serious look at themselves. They have to do better.
“They say sorry and hold their hands up, but they have to show bottle.’’ He added: “We were positive on Saturday against a strong side, we come here today and too many players never turned up – it’s frightening.
“I praised them on Saturday, but a basic error gives them the goal. It’s frustrating.
Jack and Scotty were excellent again, I say that week in, week out.
“But Jack was ball watching for the goal and we conceded similar against Sheffield United the other week.
“Too many boys didn’t perform.
I’ve told them who they are, they know it. We need more quality on the ball.
“There’s a lot of injuries and had to include boys who haven’t been involved – that’s the way it is.
“James Poole has a chance to score, but needs to be more aggressive. I’m saying the same things each week.
“There is pressure on us and some don’t want to be on the ball. Players are short of confidence, but the last few games have been more positive.’’ Scott Flinders has been the mainstay of the defence of late. He made another topdrawer save after just 13 minutes last night.
Nathan Clarke met a corner and his header was powered towards goal, but Flinders flung himself across goal to keep it out. It wasn’t his only save of the night, but where the covering defender on the post was is open to debate.
Scott Wagstaff had a chance to score, but pushed a weak shot wide when he got in behind the defence.
And only a firm saving tackle from Jack Baldwin kept out Neil Cox after Neil Austin left a header short of Flinders.
Jon Franks wasted a halfchance, Pools’ first, when he was played in by Ritchie Humphreys on 23 minutes and shortly after Humphreys volleyed at keeper Ryan Allsop.
Orient weren’t great in the opening half, but in Moses Odubajo they had a direct and quick winger who was always a threat.
At the start of the second period, Darren Holden survived a penalty shout after the ball struck him in the area and Austin’s willingness to close down Ryan Brunt saw the striker shoot into the stand.
It wasn’t long, however, before he scored. And it was another goal that was gifted.
The individual howlers which cost Pools in recent weeks have gone, but questions have to be asked over this decider.
Odubajo was allowed to cross from the right without being challenged and Brunt ghosted into the area to plant an unmarked header past exposed Flinders.
Where was the reaction from Pools? Instead, Flinders had to make a strong save to keep out a stinging Dean Cox volley.
Jon Franks, who put a shot into the stand in the first half, was again disappointing in his performance and replaced by the untried Jordan Richards.
From the substitute’s first touch, he curled a free-kick wide. From his corner, Steve Howard headed against the bar.
James Poole, another substitute, didn’t react quickly enough or positively enough when he should have slammed the ball home from six yards.
Pools have one win to their name this season, at home to Scunthorpe at the start of September and, until they shake off this malaise, it’s going to be a long time before the next one.
MATCHFACTS: Goal: Brunt (47, 1-0) Bookings: Humphreys (26, foul); Howard (61, foul), Baldwin (73, foul) Referee: Brendan Malone (Salisbury) 7 Attendance: 2,664 Entertainment: 2/5 LEYTON ORIENT (4-4-2): Allsop 6; McSweeney 6, Chorley 7, Clarke 7, Sawyer 7; Cox 7, Smith 5, Rowlands 5, ODUJABO 8 (Griffith 90); Brunt 6, Wagstaff 5. Subs (not used): Baudry, Symes, Laird, Cook, James, Mooney. HARTLEPOOL UNITED (4-5-1): FLINDERS 8; Austin 6, Baldwin 6, Hartley 6, Holden 4; Franks 3 (Richards 66, 5), Murray 5 (Luscombe 77), Sweeney 4, Humphreys 6; Noble 3 (Poole 56); Howard 6. Subs (not used): Collins, Walton, Rutherford, McHugh (gk). MAN OF THE MATCH MOSES Odubajo – Os right winger caused plenty of problems and created the goal