PROUD Colin Cooper has heaped praise on his central defensive partnership after an outstanding display helped secure a point at Accrington Stanley.
While the Hartlepool United forward players struggled to hit the target, at the other end Sam Collins and Christian Burgess were in fine form to secure a clean sheet.
It was their fifth clean sheet in eight league games.
Last night’s match wasn’t one for the purists and there was a real lack of quality in the final third from both sides.
But the same couldn’t be said of the defensive unit of Collins, Burgess, Darren Holden and Jordan Richards - with the central defenders standing out.
Burgess, always eager to bring the ball out, looked cool and calm in possession while 36-year-old Collins was his usual committed self.
It was a far cry from the second-half display at Wycombe Wanderers, which saw Pools give away a 1-0 half-time lead with two sloppy goals.
Last night’s display wasn’t lost on their gaffer.
Cooper also praised the Accrington Stanley pairing of Dean Winnard and Tom Aldred - fresh from their 3-1 weekend win over table-toppers Chesterfield.
“My report from Saturday was that their central pairing - Winnard and Aldred - were outstanding.
“I thought my two centre-backs were very good as well.
“Sam continues to dig in, he got himself booked in the first-half which I thought was very harsh.
“But then he showed a very disciplined second-half and Christian just gets better and better.
“We keep saying he will learn the art of defending in this environment but you also see him bringing the ball down and stepping into midfield - that is the extra bit of quality he has.
“It was the old adage of the defences being on top because both goalkeepers didn’t have a lot of outstanding saves to make.
“It is a pat on the back for the organisation of both teams and on the night there was just not enough quality in the final third.
“Not enough in and around the 18-yard boxes but it was a pretty fair point.”
Burgess, 22, has been a stand-out performer since signing on-loan from Championship side Middlesbrough last summer, while Collins is at the other end of his career.
But he has also impressed since coming back into the side after Jack Baldwin’s £500,000 transfer to Peterborough United in January.
“Sam wishes he could be as good as Christian,” joked Cooper.
“Sam has been great and when we had the two young centre-halves, they had the makings of a really good central defensive partnership because they both have ability on the ball.
“As a centre-half I like that. After Jack [Baldwin] left for Peterborough, Sam brings a completely different ethos.
“He is a talker, encourager and leader and he is a good, honest defender.
“He might not have the silky skills on the floor but he more than makes up for that with grit and determination.
“If Christian takes a leaf out of that book and uses the ability he has then he will play at a pretty good level.”