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Is there much Hope left for Pools ?
CRAWLEY Town had Hope. Hartlepool United don't have much of it.
Hope Akpan was the difference on Saturday, scoring the only goal as Pools lost at home for the third time this season, made it 11 games without a win and keeps them pegged six points from above the drop zone in League One.
For Crawley, newly-promoted, this was their fourth away win of the season and they are fourth in the table under the shrewd stewardship of Ritchie Barker.
On the other side, it's 11 without a win for Pools and tomorrow they go to Bury, the only other team currently below them in the table.
"Losing on Tuesday is not an option, it's huge,'' reflected boss Neale Cooper. "It depends on what team turns up, but forget about Bury, Crawley and think about Hartlepool and what we do.''
For the first time this season, the crowd vented their spleen at the weekend.
Smatterings of boos saw them off at the break, while in the second half, with little to no sign of an equaliser, there were cries for Cooper's exit.
For a manager so popular and with so much goodwill from his first spell at the club, it says a lot about how far away Pools are from looking like a team that they have started to turn.
"They can have a go at me, that's the nature of the world, the beast,'' said the manager. "But we said we come in every day to try and lift the boys and we do - the staff don't go around with sad faces.
"But Micky [Barron] said to them that it's about time they gave us a lift. It's hard every day to come in bright and bubbly. At times we need them to lift us and get us going.
"It's about having bottle and working hard. They can do more.''
He added: "The dressing room was quiet, difficult. It's becoming week in, week out, the case that Scotty [Flinders] is the best player.
"Every team we play is a threat - Tuesday at Orient their wide man was, this it was Adams, good players who get by players. It was there for Jonny [Franks] to do it on this occasion and he passed it backwards.
"I said to them, seriously, there's no supporters like ours. Be brave enough out there to be positive - when there's 50,000 baying for blood, that's pressure. Enjoy this. I'm trying my best for them and supporting them too.''
But there were times on Saturday when Pools looked devoid of not only confidence, but ideas.
Their two efforts on goal that tested goalkeeper Paul Jones were both 25-yard shots from right- back Neil Austin.
That aside, another goalkeeper came to Victoria Park and had the easiest afternoon's work he will have all season.
At the other end and yet again Flinders was the busier by far.
He could do little to nothing about the clinical strike for the goal. When the ball came over from the corner, three Pools heads got to the ball at different stages before it landed kindly to be hit.
Flinders kept Pools in the game at Orient in midweek, likewise on this occasion. But, after the opposition scored, did Pools really look like festering a leveller?
Ten minutes to go and Crawley defender Kyle McFadzean was felled in the penalty area, coughing up blood said Barker.
As the players waited around while treatment was administrated, the Pools XI stood around and watched.
Ten minutes to go, one-down at home, where was the unity? Surely it was the perfect time for a quick reorganisation or gee-up as a unit.
Instead the last minutes - five added on for the stoppage - passed them by without fuss.
The last time Barker was at Victoria Park was last September. Pools easily turned his Bury team over 3-0. Since then, Pools have won five games at Victoria Park from 28, an astonishingly pitiful record.
"Tuesday is a defining game, we look at the squad and see what we have,'' said Cooper. "It can be an opportunity for others - I cannot wait for players, hoping that they will turn.
"I'm not naming names, but they have come in from big clubs and where to they go from here? This should be a stepping stone to get back up there, a platform to get somewhere.
"I've put my arms around their shoulders, some boys don't like it when you are shouting at them so it's been personal with them.''
0-1: Akpan (14, volleyed low into corner from edge of the penalty area)
Bookings: Adams (unsporting behaviour 45), Baldwin (64, foul), Davis (foul 87), Walton (90, foul)
Referee: Kevin Wright (Peterborough): Always looked at the next play before calling a halt 6
HARTLEPOOL UNITED (4-4-2):
7 Flinders: Once again, Pools relied on their keeper to keep them in it. Would have been game over by half an hour if it wasn't for him;
6 Austin: That he had Pools' two worthwhile shots at goal said a lot about the paucity of the attacking options
7 Baldwin: Cool and relaxed in and out of possession. Like Flinders, is one you can rely on and tries to play football
6 Collins: Steady return to the side for the skipper after a spell on the sidelines
5 Holden: Bags of energy and a showed neat turn of speed in covering. When he slips possession to the opposition,
he doesn't let it affect him and
soon gets back on track;
3 Franks: Another game without a positive mark. Confidence and self-belief seems shattered and will be taken out of the team tomorrow
6 Walton: Tried too hard early on, but this was a sign of what he is capable of. Up for this one and out to show what he can do rather than what he can't
4 Sweeney: Touch was too heavy and gave away the ball at times far too cheaply. Didn't look comfortable in the busy
4 Poole: On the edge of the game looking at it from a distance, never played like an out and out winger like he was asked to do;
5 Howard: Service was poor, and was non-existent from the flanks. Instead had to cope with the usual assault and
battery from defenders as balls
were pumped up on top of him;
3 Noble: Was disappointed to be taken off - but not as disappointing as his
performance was. Three games in succession in which he's made no impact.
Luscombe (for Noble 61): Positive in possession, never hid and will start at Bury tomorrow 6
Richards (for Franks 81)
(not used): McHugh (gk), Humphreys, Rutherford, Buddle, Hawkins.
CRAWLEY TOWN (4-4-2): Jones 5; Byrne 6, Davis 7, McFadzean 6 (Connolly 81), Sadler 6; Jones 7, Akpan 6 (Bulman 90), Simpson 6, Adams 7; Alexander 7, Forte 5 (Clarke 75). Subs (not used): Connolly, Torres, Hunt, Ajose, Kuipers (gk).
MAN OF THE MATCH
SCOTT Flinders - the only difference between Pools losing 0-1 or 0-4. Quiet second-half, but his first-half saves kept the score down.
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