DROPPED: Neale Cooper to axe Sam Collins or Peter Hartley for visit of Sheffield United

Peter Hartley, Sam Collins and Scott Flinders
Peter Hartley, Sam Collins and Scott Flinders
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NEALE Cooper will today decide which of his centre-halves will be axed for tomorrow’s visit of Sheffield United.

The Scot has told SportMail that either skipper Sam Collins or last year’s player of the season Peter Hartley will be dropped in response to Saturday’s defensive horror show at Colchester United.

The 3-1 defeat sent Pools into the bottom four for the first time this season with only Bury now beneath them in the League One table.

Both Collins and Hartley were guilty of individual errors which led to home goals, and Cooper must now determine which of the pair will partner Jack Baldwin at the heart of the defence against The Blades.

“I have to change personnel at the back – I can’t watch that again, it’s torture,” declared the 48-year-old.

“I’ve given them chances and given them the benefit of the doubt, but that defensive play is criminal.

“I’ve spoken to them individually but it’s like they’ve never played that position.

“So it’s got to change, I’ll put Jack in the middle and pull Neil Austin back in at full-back.”

Baldwin, again, was one of the few to emerge with any praise at the weekend.

We reported last week that the 18-year-old was set for a run in the side having dislodged Austin at right-back.

But it now appears he will become Cooper’s first-choice centre-back, as the Pools boss explained: “He’s 18 and plays with more of everything than our most experienced players.

“It must be hard work for him to play in that back four.

“He’s different class the boy and he’ll have a big future.

“It’s a credit to him that he kept playing like he did.

“Even towards the end he made some great interceptions.

“So he’ll come inside.”

He went on: “There’s also another lad I can go and watch today.

“Other than that we’ve got one other young lad who is injured (Paul Johnson) and another who’s not quite ready yet (Nathan Buddle).”