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Plenty of progress for Pools of late
Final Score: Scunthorpe United 1 Hartlepool United 0
IT’S been a while since Hartlepool United last lost a game away from home; and it’s fair to say they have come a long way since the opening day of the season.
When they were humbled and rolled over at Rochdale in early August, the fall out of relegation was at the fore. It was the reason why they crumbled that day.
After going down to defeat at Scunthorpe at the weekend – they had gone five away games (two wins, three draws), without defeat in between the reverses – there was a different outlook.
At Rochdale, boss Colin Cooper, after his very first game in charge, wasn’t sure of the reaction to come from his players.
At Scunthorpe, Cooper was sure what will follow; a positive reaction when they are next in action when Dagenham visit Victoria Park at the weekend.
Pools were a bit of a slow burner in the early weeks of the season, but in recent games they have been flying – they went into this one seeking a sixth successive victory, a feat not achieved since Danny Wilson led them out of the bottom division in 2006.
That they didn’t win it was down to a couple of smart saves from home goalkeeper Sam Slocombe and an Andy Monkhouse shot that hit the post from a deflection, rather than flying in.
“I asked Andy what he thought after he hit it and he felt that the deflection made it look a bit better,’’ mused Cooper.
“I thought the deflection took it away from the top corner.
“It was a terrific strike and if we think about the area in which he picked the ball up, similar at Mansfield, you can see what he was thinking.’’ That Pools lost it was down to an error in judgement by the otherwise again impressive Christian Burgess.
In attempting to nick the ball away from striker Sam Winnall, Burgess went to ground. But he didn’t get enough on the ball to push it away and, with the defender on the deck, Winnall got away to score.
Cooper is confident Burgess will learn from it. There’s every reason to. Jack Baldwin’s defensive slip cost Pools victory at Bristol Rovers in September and he didn’t suffer from it.
Instead, he’s flourished into one of the best centre-halves in the Football League.
Burgess will be the same and Pools will hope that the next Middlesbrough manager allows him to stay all season instead of going back to the Riverside when his loan expires at the end of December.
“Christian made a decision to go to ground and he knows it was the wrong one. He will learn as he is an intelligent boy and make sure he is better for it,’’ admitted Cooper.
“Scunthorpe changed formation three times and that’s what a manager sometimes does. They started well with a different shape to cause us problems, then we got a grip and put them under pressure, counter-attacked nicely and I didn’t see us losing the game.
“I’m really disappointed for Christian – we have all been there.
“We all make mistakes at times and he is a great lad and the plus point for us is that he is devastated about it so it shows he cares.’’ While Pools beat Plymouth and AFC Wimbledon at Victoria Park in the last week, both opponents went away feeling they had done enough to win the game.
Pools had a similar nature when they headed away from Glanford Park.
“It was tight, and credit to Scunthorpe,’’ said Cooper, of the side managed by his former Boro team-mate Brian Laws.
“There wasn’t much in it, we looked comfortable for long periods.
Pools manager Colin Cooper and his assistant Craig Hignett discuss tactics
“We didn’t put their goal under pressure for long periods, other than one or two saves from the goalkeeper.
“I quite enjoyed the game as a League Two game. There was bits of quality, at times not so good quality. But it’s taken a mistake to beat us and as disappointed as we are, we crack on.
“Scunthorpe’s back four was solid, a lot of strength and experience in there and they used it to defend their 18-yard box well when we threatened.
“With a bit more quality something might have happened for us.
“As long as we learn and are really disappointed to lose then I cannot grumble too much. October has been very good to us overall.’’ Pools will play Notts County at home in the first round of the FA Cup on Saturday, November 9.
Before the draw, made yesterday afternoon, Notts sacked boss Chris Kiwomya.
The two previous Notts bosses, Martin Allen and Keith Curle were both sacked by the club after defeats at Victoria Park.
Notts are bottom of League One, and lost at home to Preston on Saturday.
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