NEALE Cooper was “gutted” and “hurting” following Hartlepool United’s exit from the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy last night – and he admits his first job today will be to lift himself.
The Scot saw his luckless season continue last night as his side lost out in a penalty-shootout to League Two Bradford City, after a goalless draw.
It means that, after just 12 games of the campaign, Pools are four points adrift of safety in League One and out of two cups.
And Cooper, who will today turn his attention to Saturday’s visit of Doncaster, said: “I’m gutted. I wanted to do well in this competition – it could have helped us.
“We thought it could kick-start things after a bad run of results.
“I’ve got to lift myself again now because it hurts, but we will fight on. I’ve always done that and always will.”
Luck, Cooper feels, is evading his side at present.
Having seized an early advantage in the shootout, with debutant Charlie Wyke – newly signed on loan from Middlesbrough – on target, the Pools boss then saw Jon Franks, Ryan Noble and Evan Horwood all hit the woodwork to leave the Bantams 3-2 victors.
But Cooper also bemoaned a “lack of quality” throughout the goalless 90 minutes.
“We were far too slow in the build-up from the back – it was like the boys were too nervous to get on the ball,” he reflected.
“I said to them, ‘it’s not like you’re playing in front of 50,000’.
“But we got better and started to get forward more.
“It’s just the quality of passing which has to be better and sharper.
“Jon (Franks) got into some great areas to cross but then put it straight out of the pitch.
“So that sort of thing has to improve.
“But we’re just waiting for that wee bit of luck as well right now.
“Like the shootout, when things aren’t going for you that happens – it was fractions, two bars and one post.”
HARTLEPOOL: Flinders, Holden, Baldwin, Hartley, Austin, Horwood, Walton (Sweeney 62), Humphreys, Franks, Wyke, Noble. Subs not used: McHugh, Collins, Poole, James
BRADFORD: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Davies, McHugh (Meredith 72), R Jones (Doyle 70), Ravenhill, Atkinson, Connell, Hanson (Wells 69), Thompson. Subs not used: Duke, Hines
Ref: Graham Salisbury (Lancashire)