NEALE Cooper was “shocked” at Hartlepool United’s “useless” performance during the weekend mauling at Wycombe Wanderers – but refused to punish his players.
The Scot, furious in the wake of the 5-0 defeat, chose not to cancel yesterday’s planned day off given how well his men have performed since his return as manager.
Cooper did not hide his feelings in the away-team dressing room at Adams Park and at half-time physically pulled several of his team from the pitch.
However, Cooper chose instead remind his squad of their recent success and set about lifting them ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Bury.
“How can I punish this group of boys who have done so well for me?” he said. “They didn’t mean to have a shocker, that’s not in their nature.
“You can’t fault the effort of these boys but it was a long journey home and it was a dark day.
“I hope it hurts because I don’t want boys who aren’t hurting after a game like that.
“But I said my bit. I spoke to Micky (Barron) afterwards and we said I could go in and blast them again, but it’s in the past now
Paul Hayes, playing his first game since a loan switch from Charlton Athletic, fired weakly at Scott Flinders, only to be allowed a second attempt, from which he made no mistake.
Gary Doherty, another Charlton loanee making his bow, headed into the top corner from a corner kick before and Stuart Beavon stole in to accept a gift of a goal on 42 minutes.
Flinders then booted the ball into the back of Hayes, who was blocking his path downfield. The referee waved play on, Beavon collected and teed up Hayes to tap in from close range.
Neil Austin then lost possession inside the area, allowing the impressive Beavon to hammer home a fifth.
Tony Sweeney apologised to the supporters who made the long trip to Wycombe to witness the drubbing.
“I can’t stand here and think of anything positive to come out of Saturday,” declared Sweeney.
“It came from nowhere because we have been on a decent run of form.
“But saying that, we could have lost by seven, eight or nine goals quite easily.
“We can only apologise to the fans who travelled all the way down there.”
Sweeney added: “The goals we gave away were embarrassing.”
Wycombe: Bull, McCoy, Laing, Doherty, Basey, Hackett, Lewis, Eastmond (Bloomfield 86), McNamee, Beavon (McClure 88), Hayes (Strevens 86). Subs Not Used: Foster, Ainsworth. Goals: Hayes 5, Doherty 11, Beavon 42, Hayes 55, Beavon 71.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Sweeney, Haslam (Boyd 46), Murray (Baldwin 61), Monkhouse, Brown (Nish 67), James. Subs Not Used: Rafferty, Humphreys.
Att: 4,408 Ref: Brendan Malone (Wiltshire).