NEALE Cooper has today admitted he is desperate to “freshen up” his “stale” Hartlepool United squad.
The Scot watched in frustration at the weekend as his side surrendered a lead to lose 2-1 to relegation-threatened Chesterfield, extending their winless streak at Victoria Park to six matches.
Pools were well on their way to a first home victory since February against basement boys Chesterfield on Saturday after Gary Liddle had ended a seven-hour goal drought at Victoria Park.
The hosts then carved a string of chances to further their advantage, but each passed without score.
And Pools paid the price as Danny Whitaker and Jordan Bowery climaxed a pair of swift, second-half counter-attacks to steal a previously unlikely victory for the Spireites.
Cooper has warned his players that he is still learning about their character, and was not pleased with their response to falling behind on Saturday.
And he said: “When you go behind the pressure is on.
“You’ve got to have the mentality and bottle to deal with that.
“We had people looking for the ball when we were up and in front, but not when we were behind – you see a different side to players and I’m still learning about them
“It all got a bit panicky towards the end and it was frustrating because we’d done so well for an hour.
“It makes it a long week now until Tranmere on Saturday.
“But this team needs four or five players to freshen things up - it’s a bit stale at times.
“Hopefully, come the summer I can do that.”
Cooper changed shape to a 4-4-2 system, with Luke James and Ryan Noble paired in attack for just the second time.
Noble was key in laying on the first-half opener for Liddle, squirreling free of his man before crossing for his team-mate to flick home from close range.
But the Sunderland loanee was guilty of spurning some good openings of his own and Cooper reflected: “Ryan knows he has to do better than he did and take the chances he had.
“But he did very well for the goal and it was a good team move.
“But in the end we got beaten because we didn’t take our chances.”
Hartlepool: Flinders, Horwood, Collins, Hartley, Austin, Monkhouse, Murray (Boyd 74), Liddle (Rutherford 89), Sweeney, Noble, James. Subs Not Used: Rafferty, Humphreys, Baldwin. Goals: Liddle 37.
Chesterfield: Lee, Talbot, Thompson, Ford, Ridehalgh, Westcarr (Boden 51), Randall, Moussa, Juan (Whitaker 57), Mendy, Bowery. Subs Not Used: Allott, Smith, Ajose. Goals: Whitaker 59, Bowery 69.
Att: 4,004 Ref: Mark Haywood (W Yorkshire).