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Hartlepool United 2 Dagenham 1
ANDY Monkhouse made it three wins in three home games for Hartlepool United. It’s been a while since they’ve recorded as good a run as this one; it’s also been too long since Monkhouse has played as well and as consistently.
He’s under-performed in recent seasons as Pools have struggled.
This campaign, however, there’s been a different player to the fore. The flaky displays have disappeared.
Now proving extremely focused and much more of a team player, Monkhouse is as valuable now as he was when he first signed in 2006.
He recently proudly passed the 300 appearance mark for the club and Saturday’s goal was his 64th career strike.
His first goal came for Rotherham against Pools as a 17-year-old debutant. His first for Pools came against Notts County in 2006.
Those two opponents are next up on Pools’ schedule, in cup competitions in the next nine days.
Monkhouse is enjoying his football and Victoria Park is a contented place once again.
“We’ve won three in a row at home, there’s a real good feeling here,’’ he reflected. “The gaffer and Higgy have to take a lot of credit for that.
“Earlier in the season we were playing well without getting the results and people who came to watch us could see there was something different about the team this season.
“We looked like we had a plan, and if Plan A wasn’t working then we had a Plan B to work at. It takes time and the gaffer works hard during the week to put those plans in place and over time it’s starting to show.’’
When Monkhouse ended last season with two goals on the final day of the season at Crawley, it was quipped that the strikes would be enough to earn him a new deal at the club, when his contract was up in the summer.
But since being retained, there’s been a new focus to his game. He’s played up front this season on occasions and has been reverted to the flank to good affect in recent games, part of a three-man attacking line playing behind Luke James.
His winner against a positive and lively Dagenham side came with 11 minutes to go. Matty Dolan’s deep corner curled to the far end of the six-yard area and Monkhouse stole a yard of space to head back across goal and into the far corner.
It came at a vital time. Pools had been pegged back to 1-1 and were under pressure.
After taking the lead and conceding, the Pools of recent times wouldn’t have coped with the Dagenham attacks. Defeat would have followed.
But Cooper and Hignett have introduced a different mantra to this set of players.
They now know how to win games and they are winning them in different ways.
On the road, they’ve played some positive, counter-attacking football and earned points from it.
In their current three home wins, Pools have been under pressure at times, but defended well and scored at the right times.
The blows of being reduced to ten men against Plymouth and conceding equalising goals to both AFC Wimbledon and Dagenham have been brushed aside.
They are now made of sterner stuff.
James Poole put Pools in front when he knocked in from close range after Luke James intercepted a shot from Michael Duckworth and angled his shot across the six-yard area.
The Daggers’ equaliser came when the impressive Zavon Hines cut inside from the left, skipped through some challenges and fired his shot across Scott Flinders.
That Pools weren’t soon trailing was thanks to a piece of determined defending from skipper Neil Austin.
Like Monkhouse, his standards have been raised this season, and no more so than when he chased back to pinch the ball off the toes of Hines when he was ready to tap in after a quick break.
Monkhouse added: “When you get pegged back at 1-1, then Aussie makes a great tackle and Scott makes some saves, people think a draw would do us, but there’s a different feeling in the camp right now.
“We always think we will get another chance and so it came.’’
“After they equalised, I’m sure if you asked their team and gaffer they would think there’s only one team going to go and win it.
“It’s a difficult league, home and away you have tough games and there’s different ways to win a game. We all want to come here, score spectacular goals and play great football, but it’s not always going to happen.
“You have to work hard, do your jobs individually and as a team and then hopefully come on top.’’
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