NEALE Cooper has expressed his sympathy for Sunderland loan star Ryan Noble – but is backing the striker to end his Hartlepool United stay on a goalscoring high.
The 20-year-old was in the thick of the action during Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Tranmere Rovers, leaving Merseyside with a bloodied lip and a sense of regret following his involvement in the game’s major talking point.
Noble had looked odds-on to net the second goal of his temporary Pools stay when he scampered clear of the home defence in the second half.
But he had not bargained on the leg of goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams sending him crashing to the turf on the fringe of the penalty area.
It brought a mystifying few moments when defender Ian Goodison was shown red and a comical stoppage ensued as he waited on the touchline for man in black Mick Russell to realise his mistake.
Eventually Fon Williams was sent off and Goodison returned.
Cooper has revealed former England youth international Noble, pictured right, cut a distraught figure in the dressing room afterwards, but he believes the Sunderland-born ace can use that frustration to his advantage during the final two games of the season.
“He’s desperate to score all of the time,” the Pools boss said. “It’s not going for him at the moment and I feel for him.
“It really hurts him and he beats himself up about it afterwards and gets down.
“But he’s trying like a beast right now and it’ll come for him, I’m sure.
“He’s got a couple of games to get some goals and I’m sure he will. You can’t put that amount of effort in and not get the rewards you deserve eventually.”
Noble has scored just once in his seven Pools outings since his switch from the Stadium of Light.
“It was a bit of a frustrating day for him,” Cooper said.
“But it’s all a learning curve for Ryan because it’s a big step up from reserve-team football, playing now against men every week.
“But the ability is definitely there and that will come through the more he gets used to this level.”
The events of the final 20 minutes at least provided the Pools boss with plenty to pore over afterwards.
Up to then, efforts on goal barely merited the description “shot” and both sides were toiling through a game with little meaning.
John Welsh, the Tranmere skipper, did break the boredom with his 40th-minute opener after Neil Austin had allowed Lucas Akins too much room to cross from the right.
There were just 21 minutes left on the Prenton Park clock when Tony Sweeney, up to that point an anonymous figure, took it upon himself to drag his team back into the contest.
His initial forward pass was intended for Noble but was wayward.
However, the ball found itself back at his feet and he accepted the invitation to make strides into the area, skilfully skipping beyond a static white shirt.
There was work to do and after gathering his composure, he slotted beneath Owain Fon Williams to move to the top of the Pools scoring charts on eight for the season.
Tranmere: Fon Williams, Holmes, Taylor, Goodison, Bakayogo, Akins, Wallace, Welsh, Robinson, Cassidy (Coughlin 73), McGurk (Weir 88). Subs Not Used: McChrystal, Devaney, Brunt. Sent Off: Fon Williams (72). Goals: Welsh 40.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Richards, Baldwin, Hartley, Austin, Sweeney, Liddle, Murray, Monkhouse, James (Holden 62), Noble. Subs Not Used: Rafferty, Humphreys, Boyd, Rowbotham. Goals: Sweeney 69.
Att: 4,757 Ref: Mick Russell (Hertfordshire).