Neale Cooper hopes to sign ‘poacher’ as Hartlepool United draw a blank

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NEALE Cooper will today turn his attention to unearthing a “poacher in the box” for Hartlepool United.

The Scot, while satisfied with the point following Saturday’s goalless draw at Exeter City, was frustrated at the lack of quality in the final third.

He has already stated his desire to bring at least one “natural winger” to Victoria Park during the January transfer window.

But now he wants someone to put the ball in the back of the net as well.

“We need a poacher in the box,” stated Cooper, “Get the ball in the box and the right sort of striker will put the chance away.

“We need someone up front, a finisher in the box.

“I hope we can get someone in and we’ll be trying this week because there are a couple of pieces missing in the jigsaw.

“We don’t have natural wingers either. I’ve been on the phone for players, but it has to be the right ones.”

Cooper has hinted that he will be afforded funds to bring a maximum of two loan players to the club.

He has already checked in with Everton boss and countryman David Moyes at Everton, and he’ll be on the phone to Manchester United chief Sir Alex Ferguson, his former manager at Aberdeen, at some point this week.

One player who won’t be coming to the Vic, however, is Leeds United outcast Billy Paynter.

It had been rumoured the 27-year-old was a loan target for Pools, but Cooper said that is not the case.

The Pools boss handed a senior debut to 18-year-old striker Callum Hassan at Exeter, as well as starting with fellow teenagers Jack Baldwin and Luke James.

But Cooper admits he cannot depend too heavily on his young players.

“Callum came on and did okay,” he said, “He is young, raw and has good energy levels.

“But you can’t just keep bringing young lads in – you need some experience as well.

“Young boys come in and start and then, I’ve done it myself as a player, you get bedded in the team – in and out – and take time to get used to it.”

Flinders preserved a point for Pools late on when Troy Archibald-Henville, the towering centre-back, was thwarted by the visiting gloveman as he headed on goal from just six yards out.

It was rare moment of excitement for those inside St James’s Park.

For the 85 travelling fans, their highlight was an Antony Sweeney run which almost culminated in a goal 15 minutes from time.

Exeter goalkeeper Artur Krusiak, however, was equal to the midfielder’s effort and so kept goalless a scoreline which, in truth, never looked like altering.

The first half was arguably, in terms of a spectacle, the worst of the campaign to date.

Three matchballs in quick succession managed to escape the stadium – they were the lucky ones.

Pools were guilty of too many long balls while Exeter, although at times trying to play decent football, were hopelessly inept and merely succeeded in gifting possession to their visitors.

As a result Cooper was disappointed that his men had failed to capitalise, later lamenting a “lack of quality” in key areas.

James, at 17, will inevitably struggle to maintain the standards he has set during his breathtaking introduction to senior football.

He was decent again on Saturday, if lacking the goal threat which Cooper craves.

James Brown – handed a late start after Andy Monkhouse took ill – again showed encouraging signs of rediscovering his best form, but he tired as the game wore on.

One second-half run and rising shot which flew narrowly over was Brown’s stand-out contribution.

Pools’ star man, however, was Paul Murray – that a midfield spoiler was the pick is perhaps symptomatic of the entertainment value.