COLIN Cooper offered no excuses after last night’s 2-0 defeat to Newport County in Sky Bet League Two and said the players fell below their own high standards.
But the Hartlepool United boss told SportMail he can’t be too critical given the excellent recent form which had seen them win seven out of nine games prior to the deserved defeat at Rodney Parade.
Goals from Harry Worley and Conor Washington were enough to sink Pools, who missed out on the chance to move into the League Two play-off positions.
Newport County, managed by Justin Edinburgh, have only lost one home league game all season.
And they started the game like a bull in a china shop and their high tempo paid off in the 6th minute, taking the lead through a Worley header.
It took Cooper’s side almost the entire first half to get a foothold back in the game and while there was an improvement after the break a 64th minute Washington goal sealed the win.
Afterwards, Cooper and assistant manager Craig Hignett had a “long chat” with the players in the dressing room to dissect what went wrong.
When they finally emerged, Cooper admitted his players were honest enough to say they had failed to perform to the level they know they can.
Trimdon-born Cooper said: “The players have been very honest and they felt themselves that they have fallen below the standards they have set.
“That is a fair assessment but I can’t be too critical.
“If we set our standards as high as we have been doing and they fall below them and play against a team like Newport then it is not really about standards.
“It is about rolling your sleeves up and Newport tested us and we didn’t really stand up to that.
“I’m not criticising anybody though because they have been terrific.”
Newport’s high-tempo and physical approach was sadly no match for Colin Cooper’s side and they prevented Pools from playing their usual counter-attacking and attractive style of play.
Cooper added: “I still prefer to do it my way but Newport are effective and Justin has got them well-drilled and they know their jobs.
“They are tough to break down and they are very, very effective.”
He added: “We did well to eventually get a foothold in the game and we did that by playing with a high tempo and getting on the front foot, something Newport did to us in the first 15 to 20 minutes.
“We started the second half nice and bright and created one or two good opportunities but the sucker punch came when we were on top.
“They went down the other end and scuffed one in and it does knock the stuffing out of you.
“We are all honest and it just wasn’t our night.”