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Cooper raging after Pools' heavy defeat
Final Score: Preston North End 5 Hartlepool United 0
THE season may only be weeks old, and Hartlepool United are already nursing a second 5-0 defeat.
After being thumped at Crewe in the Capital One Cup, Pools hoped it would be a one-off.
Instead they followed it up last night with the same result and a similar performance - not clinical at one end and too open at the other.
And it left Neale Cooper repeating the words from Crewe: if his players don't want to play for him they can leave.
The squad will be in to watch a re-run of the game this morning. It won't make for pleasant viewing.
Pools started steadily and there was nothing between the sides until a calamitous minute when they shipped two goals.
From then on, with an inability to get their way back into the game they punished Pools with three more second-half goals.
Against a team as well drilled and organised as the Lillywhites, Pools were exposed. One team had a plan, the other appear to be searching for one.
"I don't know what I'm going to get from the players at times, I've said it,'' raged Cooper.
"Then we were too soft as a back four. I'm really hurt, really hurt. That kind of results cost a manager his job and not one of those players can moan at me if they aren't playing at the weekend.
"I've looked after these boys and I'm not accepting that from experienced boys.''
And the furious manager added: "They are in at nine o'clock to watch this again, they are normally off on a Wednesday, they don't deserve to be off.
"Micky Barron is distraught. I stayed out the changing rooms because I don't want to go in there and have a heart attack - some of them wouldn't care anyway.
"I praised them so much after the weekend, but not tonight. They are soft, too soft.
"I've never enjoyed working with someone as much as Micky and Ritchie Humphreys - they are close to tears. I can't be bothered to speak to the players after that - I'm embarrassed.
"There's not enough leaders on the park, they can come into work every day as far as I'm concerned, no matter where they live. If they don't want to play for me, come and knock on my door and disappear.''
There's a few of last night's team who won't be playing on Saturday - some may have a reprieve due to a lack of alternatives.
When on top early on, Pools had to score. They didn't really look like doing so.
Simon Walton and Peter Hartley were culpable for the opener. Hartley's strong back pass led to a corner, when it was cleared Walton lost possession in a dangerous area.
Stuart Beavon took the ball and his fierce effort was pushed out by Scott Flinders , but only as far as Joel Byrom and the pack of defenders couldn't block his smash into the net.
Then Walton's attempted pass was blocked and diverted by referee Tony Bates.
Beavon shot at goal again, this time his fierce shot dipped across Flinders into the top corner.
At two-down, Pools weren't capable of coming back into it. They were down and deflated.
They did start the second half brightly, again, however, they didn't score. Andy Monkhouse scooped a shot over the bar from three yards.
When Monkhouse and Evan Horwood charged forward, the ball into Jon Franks was won in a strong tackle.
Beavon held space behind the defence, crossed deep and Jack King nodded in.
Home corners were always a danger and from their umpteenth in the second half, left back Scott Laird powered in a near post header. There was half an inquest into the goal, a few shoulders shrugged and arms raised.
It's not enough for Cooper - he demands more responsibility.
And Laird capped off the miserable night for Cooper when he robbed substitute Craig Lynch, powered forward and cracked low across Flinders.
It won't make for good viewing this morning for the squad.