IT'S a manager's prerogative to back his team, to talk them up whatever the circumstances.

But surely Bristol City's Brian Tinnion was taking things a bit too far at Victoria Park on Saturday.

After his side had taken part - and played their part - in a thrilling encounter, the Geordie was suffering from more than a bout of selective memory.

Last week, it was the turn of Boston's Steve Evans to talk tosh after Pool had beaten his side.

"Neale Cooper is a very lucky man, we battered them,'' was the best of his midweek comedy show.

Tinnion could even better that.

"I'm very disappointed,'' said Tinnion as he started off sensibly and then went swiftly downhill.

"We had the better chances, they played on the break. We dominated the game.

"We had 90 per cent of the second half, we controlled it. I was very pleased with the way we played, we outplayed a very good home team for long periods.''

Neale Cooper isn't afraid to call proceedings how it is and there was no debate over with his assessment: "We had to match them by playing three at the back and putting Ben Clark and Mark Tinkler in the middle meant we were very solid in there.

"We were strong in all departments, from back to front. The one thing I said before the game was that they were a danger with the long ball over the top and we were caught out a wee bit for their goal.

"But at half-time I had nothing but praise. The work rate was immense and it was an excellent performance against a very good side.''

City did, of course dump Pool out of the play-offs in agonising fashion last May. But, in the six games between the sides over the last 18 months, there's been little between them.

Cooper said: "I don't think I will ever get over what happened in the play-offs last season!

"The teams are together in the league again this season and we drew 0-0 down there the other week, so this was a big victory for us.

"It's nice to be able to go into the FA Cup game on Saturday with this sort of performance behind us. The movement and slick passing was excellent.''

That was the key to Pool's victory. The strikers, with Tony Sweeney playing an advanced role, had too much for the visitors.

Cooper added: "The movement of our two strikers caused them lots of problems. Joel (Porter) and Adam Boyd linked very well and they are the best striking partnership we have at the club.

"Joel had been ill all week with mumps but he came in on Friday and I thought he looked really sharp.

"He said he felt brand new and he looked it.

"To get 70 minutes of that standard from him was tremendous.''

The win put Pool five points in front of their play-off rivals and extends the unbeaten run to ten games, a stretch which has seen them score 21 times and concede only five.

It was achieved, despite what Tinnion claims he saw, with some stunning, free-flowing football. In the first-half especially, Pool carved through the visitors with relative ease and created a welter of opportunities.

Their passing and movement was simply too good and too quick. Tony Butler had to wear a gum shield to protect his mouth after having a fistful of teeth dislodged by then Peterborough player Clive Platt last month.

In his first game back, Butler must have felt punch drunk at times.

It was from his indiscretion that Pool took the lead. Porter swapped passes with Ritchie Humphreys, took a touch past Butler in the penalty area and, as the defender went to ground he felled the striker.

Referee Brian Curson used his assistant who was square on with the incident and, despite the appeals and protestations, Boyd, back on spot-kick duties, confidently knocked the penalty home.

It was Pool's seventh spot kick of the season, more than any other in the division, and their fifth successful conversion.

Dimi Konstantopoulos made a full-length stop to keep out a free-kick, but he was soon beaten by Steve Brooker.

The striker, a £225,000 summer signing, played off Micky Nelson's shoulder and stole a yard of space to latch onto a long ball. A couple of touches later and he shot across Konstantopoulos into the far corner.

Sweeney, Boyd and Porter combined once again and the latter's shot was turned around the corner by Steve Phillips.

In recent years Pool have pummelled a lot of teams at Victoria Park. But Bristol City are in a different league to Swansea and Rushden in more ways than one and to manage it so effectively on Saturday shows how far this team has grown over the last two years.

Then, from a City corner, three passes and what seemed like three seconds later and Pool had a great opening.

Hugh Robertson cleared to Boyd on halfway. His flick played in Porter who motored away and looked a certain scorer only for his touch to let him down in the penalty area.

But Pool were back in front with a goal of equal devastation.

Konstantopoulos saved from Leroy Lita. Jack Ross swiftly played up to Boyd and, with Porter again involved, Sweeney was deftly put through to knock in his 11th of the season.

City had brought on Tommy Doherty in midfield and, with Pool defending a lead, his tidy passing caused problems.

But Pool are getting used to defending a lead these days and there was no late blows this time.

Result: Hartlepool United 2 Bristol City 1.

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