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Pools dumped out by Clarke’s double
Full-time: Coventry City 2 Hartlepool United 1
BOOK in a free day for the January sales, as Hartlepool United won’t be involved in the FA Cup third round.
There’s no cup trip to Barnsley and a reunion with former Pools boss Danny Wilson, who was appointed at Oakwell yesterday.
And, with League Two opponents Southend remaining in the competition, there’s a free day in the offing.
Pools went close last night, drawing level with three minutes to go, only to concede a late goal, three minutes into added on time.
Extra time beckoned after Jack Baldwin headed an 87th minute leveller, before Leon Clarke poached his second of the night right at the death.
The striker had earlier put his side in front, finishing well in the first-half, but Pools grew into the game in the second period and their leveller - short-lived as it was - was a deserved one.
But Pools felt hard done by as they left the Sixfields Stadium in Northampton, where Coventry play their home games. There was just 1,214 in the ground last night – and the 225 from Hartlepool took the attendance into six figures.
The winning goal came from a free-kick that Cooper felt should not have been awarded, while there was a hint of offside over Clarke’s first effort.
“It’s disappointing because the officials have let them put the ball in our area for the winning goal,’’ reflected Cooper.
“It looked like we could get something and we tried to get back into it. I hope that Leon Clarke is onside for the first goal, and he probably is, which isn’t great defending.
“The second, we haven’t defended the ball properly, but they didn’t have the right to put it in there.
“It’s hard on everyone and on Scott (Flinders) as well.
The ball dropped for Leon Clarke’s feet, but the save in the first half was outstanding – we keep saying it all the time.
“We haven’t needed him an awful lot, but he came up with the goods when we needed.
“We can give anyone a game, it’s a case of where Coventry are and how they play and they have two good strikers up front.’’ Cooper added: “It’s five League One clubs we have gone toe-to-toe with this season, beat three of them and been better than four of them.’’ “I felt we could come here and win, we could beat them at the Vic, but it hasn’t happened so we turn to the next game.
“We need to be rested, recovered and prepared for Burton and we take out any frustration on Burton.’’ After starting with a 3-5-2 formation at the weekend, it was 4-5-1 this time with Jon Franks, Saturday’s two-goal hero, up front.
He was soon in the action, turning a low shot at goal.
However, Pools didn’t show enough first-half attacking intent and they often had Franks too isolated.
At the other end, central defenders Baldwin and Christian Burgess were up against two lively forwards in Clarke and Callum Wilson.
A fine covering tackle from Baldwin halted Wilson after the forward accelerated away.
But Pools should have been trailing on 14 minutes.
Right-back Cyrus Christie crossed for Clarke, racing in at the far post. A solid connection looked certain to open the scoring, but Flinders got across goal to amazingly keep it out.
After Baldwin’s tackle, it was soon the turn of Burgess to do similar, this time halting Clarke’s progress on the edge of the area.
The opening goal came when John Fleck, classy in possession in midfield, slid a pass through the defence for Clarke to latch onto, pick his spot and finish past Flinders.
Burgess soon met a Simon Walton free-kick to flash a header wide.
Luke James was put on ten minutes into the second period and his arrival, with Franks pushed back wide, instigated their best spell of the game.
With Brad Walker prompting from deep, Pools were on top, but they failed to make the most of their energies and allowed the Sky Blues to soon regain the edge.
In the closing stages, sub defender Sam Collins was pitched up front to try and cause problems and, from his cross, Pools earned a corner. Matty Dolan’s ball was met by Baldwin and extra time loomed.
But a soft free kick award put Pools on the defensive.
Flinders saved and Clarke was on hand to control the loose ball and finish low.
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