Neale Cooper has his work cut out at Hartlepool United

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NEALE Cooper was left in no doubt as to the size of the task at Hartlepool United, admitting his players simply “weren’t good enough” during the 2-1 defeat to Scunthorpe United.

The Scot took to the Victoria Park dugout for the first time in six-and-a-half years yesterday as he looked to kick off his homecoming by ending a run of eight straight defeats on Clarence Road.

But even the buzz of Cooper’s return could not lift the players as they again slumped to an all-too-predictable defeat once they had fallen behind to Sam Togwell’s first-half opener.

Garry Thompson made it two after the break before Andy Monkhouse sparked brief hope of a comeback with a late strike.

Cooper, though, was less than impressed with what he witnessed and said there is plenty of work to be done over the coming weeks.

“That wasn’t a good enough performance and it needs to be a lot better,” said the 48-year-old, who had been afforded a rapturous welcome from the home crowd before the game.

“We need a lot better from a lot of the boys and they know that themselves.

“There’s certainly work to do for me, yes.”

He went on: “The welcome before kick off was nice but it’s all about results.

“I was very disappointed with the performance.

“We were second to everything – it was a case of nearly getting there, but nearly isn’t good enough.”

Cooper’s reappointment was motivated by the club’s hope that his presence could bring to an end that wretched home run.

But nine consecutive defeats means the extension of a worst-ever run in Pools’ 103-year history, and the new boss admits there is a lack of confidence among his men.

“Whether they’re scared about playing at home I don’t know – but what is there to be scared about being at home?” he said.

“But there’s a nervousness there.

“I tried to change things before the game and one or two boys got an opportunity to come in and were disappointing.”

Scunthorpe took the lead through Togwell’s strike. A neat exchange with Garry Thompson climaxed with a smart finish into the bottom corner.

Cooper’s words during the interval at Sheffield United on Saturday had at least sparked an improved second-half display.

Again, his half-time instruction had a lifting effect and Boyd went close on a couple of occasions to drawing level within 10 minutes of the restart.

Scott Flinders had already kept the game alive with a couple of fine saves before Thompson made it two.

There was time for a fine Andy Monkhouse strike to spark hope of an unlikely comeback as his 25-yard drive brought to an end a period of 822 minutes without that home goal from open play.

He should even have had a second soon after but headed tamely wide, the missed opportunity signalling three-and-a-half months of consecutive losses at the Vic.

Hartlepool: Flinders, Austin, Liddle, Horwood, Hartley, Humphreys, Luscombe (Brown 60), Sweeney, James, Boyd (Solano 73), Monkhouse. Subs: Rafferty, Haslam, Baldwin

Scunthorpe: Slocombe, Nolan, Togwell, Canavan, Duffy, Ryan, O’Connor (Wright 84), Norwood, Barcham (Dagnall 90+4), Robertson, Thompson. Subs: Johnstone, Reid, Palmer.

Ref: Geoff Eltringham Att: 5,289.