SEVEN days earlier, Neale Cooper was bemoaning the lack of experience on his substitutes bench.

As Hartlepool United drew with Barnsley, Cooper had little but youth to call on from his pool of replacements.

As United lost at Oldham on Saturday, Cooper had little but youth in his starting line-up.

By the time his defenders had been opened up far too easily three times, Pool's side boasted an average age of 22, with eight products of the club's youth team having had a run out at Boundary Park.

For Cooper there was no boundary to the limits of his frustration.

First he saw normally reliable central defenders Chris Westwood and Micky Nelson slip up to contrive an opening goal for Oldham, before Kevin Betsy took over.

Betsy was the one who didn't exactly get away, but the one who didn't stay because he wanted more.

On loan at Victoria Park, with Cooper interested in making his move a permanent one, the Pool boss wouldn't be held to ransom over his contract demands.

The former Barnsley man was offered more at Oldham and went where the money was greater. He probably thinks the prospects are greater there as well.

But just because the Oldham fans may have found a new hero doesn't mean Pool were wrong not to sign him.

The script which stated Betsy would score was penned when he signed a contract until the end of the season last Wednesday.

He took his goal well, but was never given a hard time by full back Matty Robson.

Man of the match against Barnsley, Robson never got close to the right winger, when a firm tackle and early clattering into the stands wouldn't have gone amiss.

Instead, the only resistance to Betsy was the statutory booing from the away fans.

And, after giving Pool the slip for 90 minutes, he showed a neat turn of foot an hour after the final whistle.

As he walked out of Boundary Park, clutching the magnum of champagne presented to the sponsors' choice of man of the match, perhaps walking past the Pool team bus wasn't such a good idea.

So the man in the brown velvet suit once turned into space and this time headed the long way to the car park.

"He scored a good goal, but he never hit one like that when he was with us,'' joked Cooper.

"Unfortunately he did it against us. We could have got closer and tighter to him at times and defended against him better, but there's nothing I can say about him.''

Oldham boss Brian Talbot, who has had plenty of ups and downs with Pool over the years as Rushden boss, was satisfied with his debut: "He did OK, but I expected him to anyway - I know he has good ability and he showed a bit of it out there.

"He showed he can play a bit, but he was nervous making his debut and I just told him to relax and enjoy things.''

He added: "We didn't look like we were going to go in front, but got a fortunate goal. And we made two defensive mistakes to give them two goals.''

Out of necessity, Cooper boosted his squad last week by signing Martin Woods and Alan Pouton on loan from Leeds and Gillingham respectively.

When John MacPhail spoke of the kids on the team bus, the majority of his squad was made up of kids.

It's fair to say that most of today's teenagers have a far better chance of making it than the class of 1993, but surely Cooper would prefer not to have to call up so many.

Woods, 18, was making his league debut after time spent in the Elland Road academy and reserve sides.

He started confidently and assured, but faded as Pool became bogged down and beaten to the physical punch.

Pouton, once of York, grew in stature as the game went on and was arguably Pool's best performer.

Similar in stature and style to Mark Tinkler, it's difficult to imagine the pair occupying the same midfield berths in the same team.

Cooper was critical of his central defenders and, following an impressive run at the back last season, Tinkler may be handed a chance there.

Oldham weren't afraid to lump the ball forward from one end of the field to the other. Their two central defenders seemed to enjoy agricultural clearances.

And their opening goal came when keeper Les Pogliacomi lumped the ball out of his hands deep into the Pool half.

Westwood misjudged it and, as it fell behind, Nelson was shrugged off the ball too easily by John Eyre.

Two minutes before the break, Cooper will have blown his top during the interval.

It was nearly two soon after when John Eyre hit the post and then, minutes later, hit the bar.

But then Betsy got the goal everyone was half-expecting. Coming in from the right side, like he did well in a Pool shirt, he got past Robson and Westwood, to fire a shot high and above Provett into the top of the net.

Pool's first came from the unlikeliest of sources, Westwood with his first goal since scoring against Talbot's Rushden on the final day of the 2003 season.

Pool had little change from a well-drilled and organised defensive unit.

Adam Boyd was a marked man and David Foley never got the ball down where he had the only chance to make an impact.

So, with the ball 30 yards from goal, Westwood tried his luck. A low shot bounced and rolled through the defensive line into the corner of the net.

Hardly a screamer, but certainly the pick of Westwood's five career goals.

But the lifeline lasted all of four minutes because nippy substitute Jermaine Johnson fired in a shot which might have spun up off Tinkler on it's way into the net.

A second for Pool arrived in injury time when Adam Griffin expertly steered a header past his own keeper.

There was still time for an unlikely leveller when the ball fell to Robson on the side of the six yard area. But, after a poor day at the office, he didn't have the confidence to strike at goal first time and the chance was lost.

Result: Oldham Athletic 3 Hartlepool United 2

Read more about Hartlepool here.