COLIN Cooper did not utter the word “revenge”.
But you knew it was in the back of the Hartlepool United manager’s mind when he was looking ahead to tonight’s crucial Sky Bet League Two trip to Oxford United.
The Us left Victoria Park with all three points back in September, Chris Wilder’s side winning 3-1.
It looks comfortable enough and, to be fair to Oxford, you’d have to say the superior side on the day won.
Even Deane Smalley scored, a well-taken goal to boot, and you can’t say that too many times this season.
But there was four minutes of madness at the end – Oxford being awarded a disputed spotkick when Scott Flinders brought down Scott Davies while the referee ignored a stonewall penalty in the other box when Jack Compton was tripped.
Throw in the fact that Steve Howard was red-carded – his final contribution ion a Pools jersey – and the match ended in mayhem.
It still rankles with Cooper.
“Oxford were, on the day, one of the teams who have come here and played some good football,” he said.
“But I still look back at that afternoon with a bad taste in my mouth.
“I thought we were denied at least a point by the officials on that day, who they were big enough to admit afterwards.
“They awarded Oxford a penalty, a decision they admitted was wrong because the player had made a double movement – he’d ridden Scott Flinders’ challenge and then went down and the ref bought it.
“The penalty made it 3-1 and we had Jack Compton booked for diving who they admitted was actually fouled and we should have had a penalty.
“It could and should have been 2-2.
“That feeling has not disappeared as we should not have lost on the day.
“But we did and now we have to go to Oxford to try to put that right and keep ourselves in the mix.”
But, for all Oxford are out of touch at the moment – they have not won in six games – Cooper says a win for the hosts would be crucial to their own promotion hopes.
Oxford are currently on 56 points, four ahead of eighth-placed Southend and seven better off than Pools.
“It’s a tough game,” said Cooper, who wants his side to perform as they did when the Pirates of Bristol Rovers were put to the sword, 4-0.
“If Oxford get a positive result against us then they have a fairly sizeable gap on the chasing group.
“We have to, as I keep saying, try to emulate what we did last week and come back with something positive.
“If that’s a win, then great, but if we have to be resilient and get a point and the gap with Oxford stays the same then that’s OK as well.”