RONNIE Moore slammed his Hartlepool United players for hitting the “self-destruct” button in Saturday’s second-half collapse to Shrewsbury Town.
Pools, bottom of League Two, were more than a match for promotion-chasing Town for the opening 45 minutes and created the best chances.
But they failed to take those opportunities and boss Moore was left to rue those missed opportunities when Micky Mellon’s side hit three second-half goals to maintain their outstanding home record.
All three goals were avoidable and Moore was left frustrated with his side’s sloppy defensive play.
Andy Mangan opened the scoring with a fine finish in the 50th minute after wriggling free of on-loan Sunderland defender Scott Harrison inside the area before James Collins was given too much time inside the area to play a one-two with Mangan before finishing well nine minutes later.
The win was complete in the 68th minute, Mangan with a free header inside the box.
Defeat left Pools nine points adrift of safety following wins for relegation rivals Tranmere Rovers and Carlisle United.
Moore was trying to remain upbeat and urged his side to take the positives from the first half display, but he was left angry with the collapse after the break.
“First half, Scotty Flinders hasn’t had a shot to save,” reflected Moore.
“But you cannot defend the way we defended [after the break] and that has been the story of the season.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s me in charge or Joe Bloggs, whoever – we have all said the same things after games and you cannot defend like we did.
“They were sloppy goals.
“We said at half time let’s keep it tight, but inexperience cost us the first goal.
“We got the striker in a good position, but then allowed him to turn and score.
“For the second, the ball is played between experienced full-back and winger and allowed to get into the box.
“We can’t defend, for all the possession we have had.
“The gap is nine points again and we know we need to go on a run and I’ve got to get manager of the month.
“That’s what we need and if that happens then we have a chance.”
The Pools boss felt his youthful side’s lack of experience showed in the second-half against a “street wise” Shrewsbury side who he has tipped to win the league.
Moore, who was impressed with Micky Mellon’s side, said: “I’m not kidding myself, they are the best we have played and they will probably win the league.
“They had too many players that were more street wise than us.
“They had a lot of experience and the pace when they counter attacked - we couldn’t cope with it.
“Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say they were better than us but first half they weren’t.
“If you don’t take the chances then you will get punished,” added Moore after the 17th league defeat of the season.
Tranmere Rovers away is next up for Moore’s squad with Pools travelling to Prenton Park on Saturday for what is the biggest game of the season.
Relegation rivals Rovers picked up three points at the weekend with a 3-0 win over Accrington Stanley to move out of the relegation zone and extend the gap between them and Pools to nine points.