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Hartlepool v Dagenham preview
AS a former top-flight and international defender, Colin Cooper appreciates the art of keeping out the opposition.
And that’s why he has taken pride from the recent defensive record of his Hartlepool United team.
When Scott Flinders was beaten at Scunthorpe last week, it was the first goal Pools had conceded from open play in 530 minutes.
A penalty at Mansfield was the only breach from losing to Oxford on September 28 to Sam Winnall’s finish at Glanford Park.
It’s the sort of run of form that brings success.
And, as long as the settled defensive unit maintains their application, Cooper will be satisfied.
“I remember the comments from people when I was walking off against Oxford after we’d conceded a late third goal,’’ he said.
“It was disappointing for me, disappointing for the players.
“Now, any goal that goes in we are disappointed with and I think that’s a good sign. Go back to last week, Christian Burgess was devastated to concede one goal.
“Sometimes we have to defend our box, make blocks, like we did against Plymouth.
“We have a good goalkeeper and at the moment a back four look fairly solid, not perfect and there are things we need to work on.
“The players in front of them are working very hard and obviously in Luke (James) we have someone who will work tirelessly to put the opposition defenders under pressure.
“But if that work rate is not there I’m not sure we sare good enough to give less than 100 per cent.’’
Pools meet Dagenham at Victoria Park this afternoon. The opposition have lost just one in 11 games and last weekend beat Rochdale 3-1.
And Cooper warned: “Once you start thinking you are good enough to put 75 per cent of the effort in and still think you’ll be good enough to win you fail - we are no where near that stage.
“We want our lads to have a state of feeling devastated when we concede a goal but on the other side everyone being delighted whoever scores for us.
“I think that’s where we are at the moment.
“I think if we’d have scored one of our chances at Scunthorpe we’d have won the game.
“York did that on Tuesday night. Against us, Scunthorpe had something to hold on to, I praised their back five on Saturday and rightly so.
“No one has turned us over and that’s what we have to stick at. If we make sure we give ourselves a chance in every game we’ll be all right.
“If we get turned over and capitulate then that would be a worrying sign, we have to be on our guard all of the time.’’
Capitulations were a regular feature of Pools in recent seasons. Too often, one goal conceded led turned to four.
But those displays have been banished. And, as long as they are, the players will get the manager’s praise.
“I will continue to pat them on the back for the way things are going at the moment because they are doing the things I want them to do,’’ he admitted.
“Keeping the ball out of your goal is the cornerstones of every team – I don’t care who they are.
“If you are able to do that it does give you a chance to go to the other end to get a goal whether that be by a counter-attack, free-flowing football, a brilliant piece of brilliant individualism it doesn’t matter.
“Keeping the out ball out of your net is the most important thing ... but I am a defender.”
Dagenham include eight-goal striker Rhys Murphy in their ranks. He played against Pools in pre-season for Dutch side Telstar and Pools were keen to have a look at the former Arsenal reserve.
He opted to return to his London roots when his deal expired.
Cooper said: “They are a very good team, with pace and are solid. One defeat in nine games or so. Rhys Murphy is someone we looked at in the summer. We knew him from playing Telstar in pre-season he was a goalscoring threat.
“But we never got that chance as he wanted to stay down south – they have a genuine goal threat in him and others.
“We have been on a good run of form. We do like to research the opposition and I’m sure Wayne Burnett is doing the same with us.
“They have been praised for what they are doing. We didn’t give a bad performance last week, just the result was a little disappointing.
“We will do our homework to counter Dagenham and put our game on the pitch to give them problems.’’
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