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Match Analysis: Exeter City 0 Hartlepool United 3
SCORING goals has long been a problem for Hartlepool United.
Rattling in eight in three away games in a space of seven days indicates the difficulties may be put to bed.
But for all their attacking flair and results in a week as good as Pools have enjoyed in years, no one inside Victoria Park thinks they have cracked it, least of all Colin Cooper.
After demolishing Mansfield 4-1 a week earlier and enjoying a solid 1-0 victory at Sheffield United last Tuesday, this time it was Exeter’s turn to be rolled over.
Starting the day in third spot in League Two – like Mansfield had – they were steamrollered by Pools.
Jack Baldwin, Luke James and Jack Compton scored at St James’ Park. James was again applauded off the pitch by the home crowd when he was substituted, such was his honest display.
Pools have travelled nighon 1,400 miles in a week, scored eight times and conceded just one goal – and that a penalty.
Now only if their home form was up to scratch...
“We have scored eight, conceded one – and even that one against us was a harsh one,’’ said Cooper. “We could have scored more than eight, but let’s just enjoy and build on it.
“Three wins in this manner is pleasing. My job now is to see if we set up different at home to win games at the Vic.
“I think we are good enough to create against anyone, but we have to be solid and we have been very solid this week.’’ Pools’ 4-5-1 set-up suits them no end away from home.
The back four are firm, two holding midfielders protect and serve, while the attacking players have been running defences ragged.
There’s been a lack of genuine pace in the side in recent years, but with Compton, James Poole and James buzzing around on the counter attack, that issue has certainly been resolved.
Compton last week admitted his target for the season was ten goals and ten assists.
With three goals in a week and four assists, he is well on his way to realising at least one half of his aim.
Cooper, whose side has lost just one in six, added: “We’ve scored three goals and got a few this week, a great week, but we haven’t cracked it and no one thinks they have.
“I’ve said to the lads that I can’t praise them enough for what’s happened this week...
but I have to end it with a but.
“What comes next? Are you happy with that, because I’m not. If you want to get better then you will get better and how hard you want to work to get better is what we are pushing them to do.
“It’s been a fantastic week and I’m happy to allow them to enjoy it and have a couple of days off for it, but then it starts again when we get back on the training ground.
“There’s two big challenges at home now and the home fans deserve to see what the away fans have witnessed.
“Belief gives you confidence and the belief in what we are trying to say to them will work – it’s never going to be perfect, but as long as they are prepared to give us what they are giving us, then we will get better.
“It’s not been an easy start to the season, but we have some momentum and they are feeling good about themselves and my do they deserve it as they have worked their socks off.’’ The last time Pools won three away games in the space of a week was in 1991. A 4-1 win at Preston in Division Three was followed up by an FA Cup victory at Darlington before completing the set at Reading.
James wasn’t born when Brian Honour, Steve Tupling, Paul Dalton and Co were running riot that week.
He could have scored after 13 seconds this time, shooting wide after Pools attacked from the kick-off.
Exeter started well and tried to press Pools, before the visitors grew into the game.
Compton set up Baldwin’s glancing header for the opener, eventually working an opening from a short corner that was seemingly going to waste.
He also lined up the second, creaming a lovely crossfield ball from the right for James.
Keeper Artur Krysiak was always going to clatter the striker, but he didn’t mind as he lifted the ball over the big Pole to score the neatest of finishes.
A couple of seasons ago and Armann Bjornsson – twice the size of James but with half his heart – backed out of a 60- 40 challenge (in his favour) with the Swindon keeper when the chance to score a last minute winner was there.
This was equally in James’ favour, but he was prepared to take the hit to score.
Boss Mick Wadsworth never forgave the Icelandic striker for his lack of effort.
James may have forgot this goal after being wiped out, showing bravery beyond his frame. He didn’t know he’d scored until Andy Monkhouse raced over to check he was OK as he laid out on the pitch.
The third came from a crisp Compton finish after James and Poole had the Exeter back four petrified again.
Shellshocked wasn’t the word for sartorially elegant home boss Paul Tisdale. The outcome for him was as much of a turn up as the ones on his designer jeans.
“I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen us outclassed so much in a game of football,’’ he said. “I’ve seen teams beat us at home, but I’ve not seen teams beat us that well.’’
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