HARTLEPOOL United’s boys need to become men – and fast.
That was the message from Colin Cooper after Pools slipped a further place down the League Two table to 15th following their 1-0 defeat at Portsmouth on Saturday.
Pools could not cope with a whirlwind start by Pompey and were sunk 1-0 through Adam Webster’s second-minute goal.
It was the side’s fourth defeat in a row and if a fifth were to follow this Saturday against promotion-chasing Chesterfield there could be a nervous look or two over the shoulders.
“We have five games left and we need points,” said Cooper, who had set his team a target of 10 before Saturday’s match at Fratton Park.
“Do we need one win? We might not need any.
“But after Saturday’s result, I look at how we played in the first half.
“We have some talented young players who can handle a ball and pass a ball.
“But, going forward, our young players have to turn into men.
“There’s no hiding place, that’s the harsh reality.
“I’ve played at Portsmouth in the Premier League and know what it’s like.
“They are scrapping for their lives and are only a point behind us now.
“That’s how this league is and you have to come and roll your sleeves up and we didn’t do it enough.
“We spoke after the match that three of our last four
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games have been defeats by one goal, that can’t happen.
“Whether you play well or play badly, if you want any level of success those defeats have to be turned into draws or wins.”
Cooper hopes to have Marlon Harewood back for Saturday’s showdown with the Spireites.
The powerful striker has been missed for the last four games with an ankle problem and it is probably no coincidence all four have been defeats.
Luke James has certainly missed him - the young striker was horribly exposed at Fratton Park.
The leading scorer only got one good ball in the box all afternoon and he almost created a half-chance for his side.
While the Harewood ankle is looking better, Cooper is facing an anxious wait over Christian Burgess with Physio Ian Gallagher becoming an even more crucial member of the club this week.
The centre-half left Fratton Park on crutches after damaging his left ankle late in the game.
Cooper does not think the injury was too bad but says it will be “asssessed” over the coming days.
It could mean a home debut for Scott Harrison after the on-loan Sunderland centre-half came on for the last quarter of an hour at Fratton Park and looked solid alongside skipper Sam Collins.
“Christian has damaged an ankle, though maybe it’s more of a twist.
“We got ice on it straight away and he will be assessed as the week goes on.
“But we have genuine cover in here now with Scott and Connor Oliver from Sunderland.
“Christian is also on nine bookings and so is Simon Walton, that was the reason for those two lads coming in.
“Scott has come on and got a little taste of it and I’ve nearly put Connor on as well.
“If Christian had gone down injured, I’d have probably put Connor on.”