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Noble out of luck on return to Pools
NEALE Cooper looked on last week as Ryan Noble scored twice for Sunderland in a friendly with Middlesbrough.
How the Hartlepool United boss wished those goals could have come in a Hartlepool United shirt on Saturday - and Noble felt exactly the same.
After scouting a behind-closed-doors game last Thursday, Cooper moved to get the striker back on loan to Victoria Park and he started at Crewe.
But he left his striking boots and his luck at Rockliffe Park as he was twice denied in the space of a minute in the second half at the Alexandra Stadium.
First, from Pools' most attractive attacking passage of play in weeks, he pulled away from his marker and collected Darren Holden's cut-back in space. He cracked his shot and, as keeper Alan Martin flung himself in front of the attacker, the ball struck his body and diverted wide.
Seconds later, Noble took up space to connect with a Steve Howard flick in the left channel and rolled his finish past Martin, only for defender Matt Tootle to race in behind and knock the ball away from goal.
"The gaffer came to watch me the other day and he spoke to me before the game,'' said Noble, who was part of Sunderland's pre-season plans but hasn't been involved in their Premier League season.
"I got a couple of goals against Middlesbrough, but I'd rather have scored them on Saturday.''
He added: "I had chances I should have put away. I've not played for a while - Thursday was my first game in two months - so this was about finding my feet and I think I did it later on.
"It didn't take much deciding to come back, as soon as the manager at Sunderland said I could go on loan I wanted to be here.
"We had so many chances, put them away and we win. We played well and deserved something but not taking the chances cost us the game.
"The lads were well up for it, positive, got an early goal and had more chances, but it wasn't our day.
"I want to play and score on Tuesday. I had a couple of chances here. The first one, I saw the defender come towards me, so I stepped past him and thought I'd scored.
"I blasted it to the bottom corner and thought I'd scored, but it's hit his shoulder or arm and gone over.
"He's not even tried to save it, he's just been hit by it.
"The second one, I've gone for the bottom corner and it's going there but the lad kicked it off the line.
"It's so annoying - those normally go in, but it wasn't my day. Put those away and we won 2-1 or 3-1 and they don't come back from it.''
The striker is self-critical and will have chewed himself up over those openings.
But he was bright from the off and his attacking nous is just what is needed.
Hard-luck stories, however, aren't. It's three defeats in a week for Pools and they have a single win - against a poor Scunthorpe side - to their name this season.
They deserved more on Saturday in a game in which they created more chances and openings in 90 minutes than the other away games combined.
It carried on the standard set in Tuesday's game with Sheffield United - another hard luck story.
But it's points Pools desperately need. Sob stories don't keep you out of the bottom four, but poor defending leaves you there.
The slack individual errors may have been eradicated, but there was a collective responsibility about the second goal.
For Crewe's first - five minutes after they missed a penalty with a laughable effort from Matias Pogba - Pools could do little about it.
Chucks Aneke, on loan from Arsenal, arrowed a first-time shot into the net from 20 yards.
For the winner, however, it should have been dealt with better.
AJ Leitch-Smith was going nowhere when Jack Baldwin - otherwise again defensively impeccable - pushed him over.
The free-kick was rolled low into the area and was allowed to bounce right across the six-yard box for centre-half Matt Ellis to knock in too easily.
From then, Pools went close on too many occasions. Neil Austin's shot hit the bar, bounced off the back off keeper Martin and rolled away from goal.