BEFORE kick-off on Saturday Hartlepool’s ‘Golden Girl’ Savannah Marshall was presented to the Victoria Park crowd.
Sadly, for the long-suffering supporters, what followed next was a long way away from the town boxer’s efforts in reaching the top of her profession as Pools recorded a third successive defeat.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Marshall is cool, calm and collected in the ring and known as the Silent Assassin in boxing circles.
In comparison, Pools were nervous and struggled to cope with the free-flowing style of play adopted by David Flitcroft’s Bury side and their fluid 3-5-2 formation.
And how Pools – lacking in quality all over the pitch – could do with Marshall’s killer instinct.
On the rare chances they managed to find themselves in on goal, chances were either fluffed or players caught in two minds.
Three changes were made from the side hammered at Port Vale, with Sam Collins, Ryan Brobbel and Michael Woods all dropped and replaced with Stuart Parnaby – again playing on the right-wing – Darren Holden and the returning Marlon Harewood.
Cooper, in truth, probably could have made even more changes but sadly he doesn’t have that option because this squad is still too thin and devoid of enough options.
Cooper, again, stressed afterwards he is working hard to bring in new faces but we all know he is working on a very tight budget and aside from a permanent goalkeeper coming in to replace Andy Rafferty, the likelihood is that he is again relying on loan players.
That’s hoping no-one leaves the club as well, of course.
Peterborough United – whose manager Darren Ferguson revealed on Saturday night had made four bids for players and expects one or two deals to be done today – remain firmly interested in Luke James.
Posh are yet to publicly deny James isn’t a target – something they often do quickly if there isn’t genuine interest.
James is yet to score but was nevertheless one of the bright sparks on Saturday and his departure would, of course, be a major blow.
Two poor goals again cost Pools and they need to sort that out fast if they are to arrest this depressingly familiar start to the season, there is a real case of deja-vu.
On Saturday there was a tension around Victoria Park – plus some boos at the final whistle and a solitary protest banner against the owners.
It is a similar atmosphere to the one at the end of last season when Pools strongly flirted with relegation and a win soon is desperately needed to lift spirits and raise confidence in this current squad of players.
But the current first team lacks pace, especially in midfield, creativity, especially down both flanks and a killer instinct up front.
Further reinforcements are needed, especially in attack, even if James does stay at the club past this transfer window.
Cover is also needed at centre-half, two games into the season and Cooper has already reverted to Neil Austin partnering Matthew Bates after Sam Collins had started the first two matches.
Pools, therefore, are probably still short of four players – a centre-half, winger, attacking midfielder and striker. Plus Cooper now needs to replace the departed Rafferty as well.
Early days still, yes, but without those additions Pools could be in deep trouble this season.
To the action then and Bury’s forwards had three free headers in the box within the opening 15 minutes – again Pools failing to properly deal with crosses.
Thankfully, Bury didn’t take advantage and it was the home side that should have scored in the 17th minute.
Holden burst free into the box and should have whipped the ball across the face of goal but the left-back was caught in two minds and his weak cross was blocked.
Then, on the counter-attack Bury scored less than a minute later.
Ryan Lowe played in a lovely dinked chip towards the head of former Pools loanee Daniel Nardiello who headed home past Flinders from six-yards out.
Bury looked dangerous on the break with options all over the pitch.
Finally, Pools created a real chance to equalise in the 38th minute.
The ball broke to Parnaby on the edge of the penalty area and his dipping volley was well saved by Rob Lainton. Harewood pounced on the rebound eight-yards out but blazed it high and wide into the Town End. It was a desperate attempt.
Pools started the second-half much brighter and there was, at times, some nice passages of play but they failed to build lasting periods of pressure.
Bury, who named ex-Pools forward James Poole on the bench, almost doubled their lead through Lowe.
He was given all the time in the world before shooting from 20-yards, Flinders just getting a fingertip to push it onto the crossbar.
James then did well to find space but his pass across the face of goal was just behind Parnaby and moments later the highly-rated 19-year-old had a shot blocked inside the area.
With 63 minutes gone, Harewood had the ball in the back of the net after chesting in a Franks header but the linesman had raised his flag and it was disallowed.
Unfortunately for Pools, Franks’ header was going in anyway and Harewood need not have got involved.
Cooper made just the one change, in the 72nd minute, with Boro loanee Ryan Brobbel coming on for Parnaby.
But within 90 seconds of his arrival, Bury had been gifted a second.
Bates completely mis-judged an attempted pass back to Flinders 25-yards out, which allowed sub Rose to touch it past the onrushing keeper before cooly slotting home.
It was an awful mistake from the captain and his teammates were visibly deflated.
It killed the game as a contest and Bury happily saw the remaining minutes out.
Getting that first victory would do an awful lot to raise the gloom hanging over the club.
Let’s hope, Pools can produce that knock-out blow soon, starting tomorrow night when bottom side Dagenham & Redbridge visit Victoria Park.