COLIN Cooper has demanded a reaction from his players after admitting Hartlepool United had their “backsides kicked” in Saturday’s League Two season opener at Rochdale.
The 46-year-old could only watch on at Spotland as sloppy defending and errant finishing cost his side dear, with the hosts running out comfortable 3-0 victors.
Cooper, though, insists he will not allow his players to dwell on the disappointment of their start and expects a much-improved performance at Championship club Nottingham Forest in tomorrow night’s Capital One Cup first round tie.
“I’m disappointed because we went there feeling good and feeling ready,” he reflected today.
“We’re all gutted. You don’t put in five-and-a-half weeks of hard graft to get your backside kicked on the first day of the season.
“We did have our backsides kicked.
“It’s happened – what do we do about it?
“We ain’t going to roll over and die, that’s for sure.
“We can only prepare for Forest on Tuesday now and look to put things right then.”
For supporters, the weekend loss had all-too-familiar echoes of last season.
Pools were soundly beaten 3-0 as they failed to convert a couple of early openings before defensive shortcomings proved their undoing.
Scott Hogan made the breakthrough, collecting the ball 30 yards from goal, skipping clear of all who opposed him before curling delightfully into the bottom corner.
By the hour mark, the hosts were three goals to the good.
Middlesbrough loanee Christian Burgess lunged, needlessly, on Matthew Lund at the expense of a penalty, with George Donnelly smashing home from 12 yards.
And then, from Hogan’s routine throughball, Sam Collins was caught in desperate need of a younger man’s legs as Ian Henderson peeled away on his shoulder before dropping a classy finish over Scott Flinders.
Collins had been exposed, Burgess naïve, an out-of-position Peter Hartley tortured by winger – and man-of-the-match – Peter Vincenti.
Brad Walker, a full debutant at 17, did well for Pools, as had midfield sidekick Jack Baldwin and, on occasion, wingers Jack Compton and Jon Franks.
Cooper added: “The honest assessment is ‘not quite good enough defending our box and not quite good enough attacking their box’.
“We made mistakes and we readily admit that we weren’t good enough in both boxes.
“We’ve been trying very hard to create an edge in and around that final third and we did create chances.
“In between the boxes, it’s not a million miles way from what I’m thinking.
“But we have to work on improving at both ends of the field.”
Cooper tried to look on the bright side.
“Scott (Flinders) conceded three goals and didn’t have a save to make,” he said.
“It was two teams trying to play the game in the right manner – they didn’t create an awful lot but scored three goals.
“They’ll be delighted with how things have gone and we’re disappointed – that’s how football is sometimes, the flip of a coin.”
ROCHDALE: Lillis, Rafferty, Rose, Lund, Eastham, Lancashire, Hogan, Cavanagh, Donnelly, Vincenti, Henderson (Done 76). Subs not used: Thomson, O’Connell, Tutte, Hery, Allen, Bunney. Booked: Rafferty. Goals: Hogan 14, Donnelly 50pen, Henderson 57
HARTLEPOOL: Flinders, Austin, Hartley, Walker (James 56), Collins, Burgess, Baldwin, Sweeney (Poole 70), Monkhouse (Howard 70), Franks, Compton. Subs not used: Walton, Rafferty, Richards, Rodney.
Att: 3,177. Ref: Michael Bull (Essex)