MUST do better.
That was the honest assessment of Hartlepool United manager Colin Cooper following the opening day defeat in Sky Bet League Two to Stevenage.
A 60th minute goal from Chris Whelpdale was enough to separate the two sides but the Pools camp did feel aggrieved they weren’t awarded a penalty late on for a challenge on winger Ryan Brobbel.
As disappointed as Cooper was with that decision though, he admits if his side had deserved to come away with a point from the Lamex Stadium they would have.
One thing Pools did do was rely on goalkeeper Scott Flinders too much, he made three fine saves before Graham Westley’s Stevenage side eventually took the lead on the hour mark.
Cooper said: “Should we had a penalty late on? Maybe. Everyone has different opinions.
“Ryan [Brobbel] said he moved the ball outside and he was fouled. The referee’s assessor feels there was contact in the area.
“Graham [Westley] thought it was a penalty, but then he felt he should have had one too.
“We are relying on an official to make a decision and he hasn’t, so we are disappointed.”
Despite the opening day defeat, Cooper felt there were some positive aspects including the performance of Flinders and the impact of the two substitutes - Jonathan Franks and Brobbel, who signed on a month-long loan deal from Championship neighbours Boro on Friday.
Cooper added: “We lost and relied on our goalkeeper too much.
“He made saves and we didn’t protect him enough when he was beaten.
“We had an honest discussion after the game. There will be ebbs and flows and we have enough experience on the pitch now with our new signings especially to get everyone through.
“On the back of what we did we started to look lively again with the introduction of the substitutes, who gave us energy.
“We will be alright this season - don’t worry about that.
“Everyone goes away feeling disappointed about the penalty decision but if we were good enough to come away with something we would have.
“We had to stand up to what Stevenage do and we did that at times.
“We have enough to compete and then we have to try and get it down and play it like we can do.
“We started nicely but then had trouble when we took one or too many touches in midfield, which allowed Stevenage to close us down.
“When we didn’t move it about quickly they nicked it back and counter attacked and they have some good players to go with their physical players.
“You can’t just call them a physical side.”
The Pools manager felt his side competed well with Stevenage in the main but has called on his first team players to show more quality when they are in possession.
Cooper said his side need to avoid getting “dragged” into a scrap.
He added: “We were competitive against a strong side, we just needed to be a bit better.
“If there are two real areas to work on, then it is to make sure our goalkeeper doesn’t make as many saves in a game and we have to pass it better and not get dragged into a scrap.
“Maybe we didn’t play in between enough, but they are an honest bunch and recognise were we can improve.
“I feel, as a former defender, that if you help your goalkeeper out then he doesn’t have to make save after save.
“I felt there was too many instances from 20 to 25 yards we were the wrong side of play and chasing back to stop their attacks.
“For the goal, it’s gone around one of our players and Scott [Flinders] is just half going the other way.
“But to have a goalkeeper like that behind us would give me, as a defender, an enormous sense of pride.”
Next up for Pools is the first round of the Capital One Cup away to Port Vale on Tuesday night before hosting Bury at Victoria Park next Saturday in their first home league match of the season.
- RICHARD MENNEAR