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Pools are re-United under Cooper
11:19am Monday 21st October 2013 in Sport
Final Score: Hartlepool United 1 Plymouth Argyle 0
SUCCESSIVE managers have spoken about it, but now Colin Cooper has done it and brought the pride back to Victoria Park. On Saturday, Hartlepool was United.
Pools were returning home on the back of three successive away wins. There was an expectation about making it four victories in a row.
They did it in a manner noone expected, but how it was relished and enjoyed in its own style.
Reduced to ten men for 65 minutes after Jack Compton’s sending off for a reckless challenge on Jamie Reckord, Pools dug in, kept their organisation, were disciplined and won it with a touch of class from Luke James and some heroics from goalkeeper Scott Flinders.
The Victoria Park faithful roared the team through the final minutes, showing a spirit and unity absent for too long. Flinders admitted he hasn’t heard such passion from the terraces for a long time.
It felt like a corner had been turned and the steady decline of recent seasons halted.
A year ago this week, then manager Neale Cooper left the club a broken man after an abject defeat at Bury.
It could be argued it’s taken 12 months to turn the club around. John Hughes steadied it as they bottomed out, Colin Cooper has things on the up. Pools are on the move again.
“Pride was the word I used – I couldn’t be any prouder in the way they conducted themselves,’’ reflected the manager.
“Sometimes it’s easy to lose discipline when you feel you are hard done by. At half-time I said it was going to be hard, but we had to maintain a level of discipline in shape and formation and then say to Plymouth it was up to them to come and break us down.
“I felt as though after Jack was sent off we, once or twice, lost our shape.
“I said make them be good enough to break us down, don’t go chasing, be solid and organised, and to a man we did that to make sure it wasn’t going to happen.
“I got a bit emotional at the end, because not only did they maintain their discipline and want to do their work to complete the task, but they did it with real aplomb. Not too many times were we cut open, or broken through and even then Scott Flinders was in the right place at the right time.
No way through as Michael Duckworth is body checked by Plymouth's Luke Young
“The lads in front of him did this football club proud.
“The crowd were outstanding.
I’ve said before about making it us against the world, a siege mentality, and there was a siege out there.
We were down to ten men, Plymouth had all the possession and sometimes it’s easy to crumble and blame everything else.
“The crowd got behind everyone. That last ten minutes, we were under pressure, but the roars and support was fantastic. It was still going when we got in the dressing room and I said to the players ‘listen to that, take it, soak it up and make sure when we have 11 on the pitch they are still with us’.
“This was a scenario when we had to put our bodies on the line, defend our goal.
“As a manager and an ex-defender it makes me very proud.’’ Compton’s red card came on 25 minutes, and as he left the pitch the crowd burst into continuous applause in memory of midfielder Michael Maidens, who died six years ago.
The number 25 shirt he wore has been retired as a tribute. His parents will have appreciated the crowd’s reaction.
The club’s goal of the season award is named after Maidens. The goal scored by James will surely be a contender.
It was a touch of inspiration.
Taking possession in a crowded area around 40 yards from goal, the lone striker was only going one way.
He raced towards the Town End and went past the static Neale Trotman to get into the penalty area and, as Luke Mc- Cormick cut the angle down, James delivered the most astute of finishes through the legs of defender Curtis Nelson and back across the goalkeeper.
Victoria Park erupted.
Neil Austing and James Poole put pressure on Plymouth's Durrell Berry
Cooper drew comparisons with Michael Owen’s solo effort for England against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup.
He added: “We had some scary moments, but having someone like Luke, who can turn a defensive thing into something positive up the pitch, is an asset.
“He can gain us some yards, a bit like in American Football I suppose. Can he get us back up the pitch and ease the pressure? He went over and above that, so from that point of view it was outstanding from him, but every single one of them was the same.’’
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