Hartlepool United’s Neale Cooper has a blast as top men fall short again

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UNDER-PRESSURE manager Neale Cooper once again bemoaned the performance of his supposed “game changers” – with his side now without a goal from open play in over seven hours.

Pools created precious little during Saturday’s defeat to Crawley Town and they are now League Oners second-lowest scorers with just 10 from 13 games.

Ryan Noble, on loan from Sunderland, and Jonathan Franks were in the firing line of the boss when he came to reflect on the latest display shorn of quality in the final third.

Both players were substituted during the second half against Crawley.

Cooper said: “Ryan came off again and he wasn’t happy, but he hasn’t been playing well.

“I understand if he’s not happy, but he doesn’t come off if he’s playing well. Do better and you stay on the pitch. He just doesn’t seem himself.

“Jonny Franks isn’t having a good time of it. Every team we play is a threat – Tuesday at Leyton Orient their wide man was excellent.

“On Saturday it was Nicky Adams for Crawley; good players who get by defenders.

“It was there for Jonny to do it a few times and he passed it back. I’ve spoken to him about it and he knows it needs to be much better. But when? We need to see that reaction now.

“And these are players who can change a game for us, important players.”

The goal which separated the sides at the weekend arrived in the 14th minute when Hope Akpan smashed into the bottom corner from the edge of the area after Pools had failed to clear from a corner.

There was a mini rally after the break and Neil Austin went close on a couple of occasions, but, on the whole, Pools were wasteful in possession, a point which annoyed the manager.

“We knew how they would play, so we tried to get balls down the sides of them, but we were too slow in build-up – it’s got to be quicker,” said the Scot.

For the first time this season, groans of discontent could clearly be heard emanating from the home crowd.

Cooper accepts that complaint and insists he has no issue with fans who voice their concern, but says the players must stand up and be counted too.

“They can do more than they are right now and it’s a confidence thing with a lot of them.

“But if they want to be driving about in big, fancy cars they need to go and perform.

“I’m not naming names, but they have come in from big clubs and where do they go from here?

“This should be a stepping stone to get back up there, a platform to get somewhere.”

Pools were without Peter Hartley (ankle) and Paul Murray (calf) at the weekend, but both could return for tomorrow’s crunch trip to bottom club Bury.

Hartlepool: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Baldwin, Holden, Franks (Richards 81), Sweeney, Walton, Poole, Noble (Luscombe 61), Howard. Subs Not Used: McHugh, Humphreys, Rutherford, Buddle, Hawkins. Booked: Baldwin, Walton, Howard.

Crawley Town: Paul Jones, Sadler, McFadzean (Connolly 80), Davis, Byrne, Adams, Akpan (Bulman 89), Mike Jones, Simpson, Alexander, Forte (Clarke 75). Subs Not Used: Kuipers, Torres, Hunt, Ajose. Booked: Adams, Davis. Goals: Akpan 15.

Att: 3, 852 Ref: Kevin Wright (Cambridgeshire).