NEALE Cooper has defended his goal-shy Hartlepool United players – but admits his side is lacking “quality and character” in the final third.
The Easter Monday stalemate with Brentford took the run of home matches without victory to five, while the scoring tally now stands at just two in nearly 13 hours of football.
Cooper believes yesterday’s game captured the good and bad of his team.
“It was the same old story in the end,” he said as he reflected on the 0-0 draw.
“The final cross, pass or touch has to be better.
“It’s hard because we’re putting the attacking work in – it’s not as if we spend all week doing defensive training and I’m not a defensive-minded person.
“The full-backs are being more positive and they’re stepping on and both Evan (Horwood) and Neil (Austin) did well.
“But you have to have players of the character who can put the ball in the back of the net.
“It’s that final, quality pass or finish which is missing.
“I said that to them after the game and they know that themselves.
“But I must say the effort and commitment again was first class, for that I cannot fault them.
“We did so well to a point – the final third – and that’s been our big problem.”
Pools did have the ball in the net in the second half when Harlee Dean turned past his own goalkeeper, only for a linesman’s flag to rule that the offside Ryan Noble had interfered with the defender.
Cooper admits that summed up a frustrating day for the Sunderland loanee.
“Ryan didn’t head it in, but the referee said the defender knew he was there, so it’s a strange one,” he said of the decision to chalk off the own goal.
“I just thought Ryan had one or two chances he should have done better with that, and he knows that.
“So it’s just not happened for him the last couple of games, but I know he’s capable.”
On the flip side of Pools’ scoring problems, yesterday’s clean sheet was their fourth in seven matches.
Peter Hartley was restored to the side after suspension and Cooper was full of praise for the runaway player of the season.
“Because we aren’t getting the goals it’s an added pressure on the defence, but they’ve dealt with that,” added the first-team coach.
“Peter is a quality player and that’s why he came straight back in and I thought he and Sam were excellent.”
Hartlepool: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Sweeney, Murray (James 56), Liddle, Monkhouse, Noble, Humphreys (Boyd 80). Subs Not Used: Rafferty, Haslam, Baldwin. Booked: Austin.
Brentford: Lee, Bidwell, Dean, Osborne, Thompson, Logan, Diagouraga, Douglas, McGinn (Morrison 61), Saunders (Balkestein 73), Donaldson (Bean 90). Subs Not Used: Forrester, Legge. Booked: Douglas, Saunders, Morrison.
Att: 4, 292 Ref: Rob Lewis (Shropshire).