ON February 27, 1999 Chris Turner set about the task of saving Hartlepool United's football league status.

Almost six years to the day, the same manager was putting an unlikely dent in the play-off hopes of his former club.

Pool saved February 26, 2005 and a trip to Turner's Stockport County - only two home wins all season - for one of their weakest performances of the season and, a first-half performance probably as insipid as anything served up since 1999.

"Useless,'' said Neale Cooper.

Turner's first game at Pool was a 0-0 draw with Rotherham, in front of 2,680 supporters as they sat uncomfortably in 22nd place.

People mocked when, on his arrival, Turner insisted Pool could be playing First Division football and enjoy average attendances of over 5,000.

After six years on the up, his idea isn't a million miles away from reality. The latter part is true and they have a good chance of reaching the Championship.

It's ironic this game saw a return to the pre-Turner Pool.

Cooper was furious and laid it on as thick as the mud that passes for the Edgeley Park playing surface.

"That was absolutely useless - I can take defeat, but not in that manner,'' he blasted.

"There was no urgency, no desire and everything we have had this week and all season wasn't there. But it doesn't happen a lot, probably the last time that sort of performance happened was at Milton Keynes.

"It was not good enough all over the park and, on a day when we had to battle all over the park against a team fighting relegation, they were hungrier in their tackling, heading and passing.

"Myself and Martin were left embarrassed by that and I can only apologise for that performance to the fans. I am the first to praise the players, but not this time.''

At Port Vale a week earlier, Pool were in front on 68 seconds. They could have been behind after 70 seconds on Saturday.

Harpal Singh got the better of Jack Ross, crossed, and his ball was volleyed over by Warren Feeney from eight yards.

Perhaps it should have been nothing more than a warning sign for Pool, a statement that the visitors were up for this one.

Instead, however, it set the tone. Singh ran riot on the left wing, troubling Ross throughout the first-half.

But, on 19 minutes, the winger created the game's only goal. His chip from the left was held up at the back post for Chris Armstrong to head back across goal and Feeney tapped in.

If they hadn't been aware before, surely this would be the kick up the backside Pool needed; far from it.

With Adam Boyd and Joel Porter playing like strangers, far from the flowing understanding they normally enjoy, there was no respite for Pool.

Turner had his side playing like Pool normally do - quick football, pressing, closing down, in your face - and Cooper's side couldn't handle it.

It was over an hour before Pool woke up.

Jon Daly's arrival gave them another option up front and the former Stockport man was denied a goal by a part of keeper James Spencer's body that he knew little about.

The closest they came to an equaliser was deep into injury time when Ritchie Humphreys curled a 25-yard shot against the outside of the post with Spencer beaten.