FULL-TIME REPORT: Rochdale 3 Hartlepool United 0

Antony Sweeney in action against Rochdale.
Antony Sweeney in action against Rochdale.

COLIN Cooper and Hartlepool United began life in League Two on a losing note as Rochdale emerged comfortable 3-0 victors at Spotland.

It was a string of defensive lapses which proved Pools’ undoing as Keith Hill’s men claimed maximum points thanks to goals from Scott Hogan, a George Donnelly penalty and Ian Henderson.

Cooper, taking charge of his first competitive fixture in the Pools dugout, started without a recognised striker in his line-up while four were named on the substitutes bench, including Steve Howard.

But they did start the brighter of the sides and fashioned a pair of early openings.

Tony Sweeney split the Rochdale backline with a ball for Jack Compton to chase and, when his drawback rolled to the feet of Jon Franks, the winger was only denied an early opener by the gloves of Josh Lillis as he got down low to block and divert wide.

It was a case of role reversal just moments later as Franks floated a cross onto the brow of Sweeney and the skipper was desperately unlucky to see his nod skip inches wide.

But the breakthrough on 14 minutes came against the run of play, debutant Hogan jinking inside and out of three Pools shirts before burying into the bottom corner from 14 yards.

Teenager Brad Walker had made a confident start in the heart of Pools’ midfield on his full debut and he drew a save from Lillis on 20 minutes when directing low on target from 20 yards.

Michael Rose sized up a free-kick from similar range at the other end but his curler could only land on the roof of Scott Flinders’ goal.

Henderson then went close with a close-range stab for the hosts but Neil Austin was well placed to prevent a second.

Pools were on the ropes as the first half drew to a close and Peter Vincenti should have doubled the home advantage when steaming onto Rose’s deep free-kick but he hammered wide from barely five yards out.

But the visitors should have been level within seconds of the restart after half-time when Compton escaped down the left and centred.

Sweeney was arriving at pace but failed to connect just yards from goal and Andy Monkhouse, following up at the far post, was unable to get a clean connection and the chance was gone.

And they paid the price as Dale doubled their lead from the penalty spot on 49 minutes, Donnelly smashing home after Christian Burgess had been penalised for a needless lunge on Matthew Lund.

It was three on 57 minutes as a routine throughball caught Sam Collins flat-footed and Henderson skipped clear before dinking over Flinders.

Cooper acted by introducing attacking trio Luke James, Howard and James Poole and the latter soon tested Lillis with a daisy-cutter from 25 yards.

And the same player somehow contrived to head over the crossbar from the edge of the six-yard area as Pools sought a consolation late in the game.

But there were also chances for Dale as both Henderson and Lund curled wide when working themselves into good positions on the fringe of the area.

The result, though, was never in doubt and Pools find themselves at the foot of the bottom tier after the opening weekend.