PROUD Colin Cooper was delighted with the “excellent” performance of his Hartlepool United players in coming back to secure a well-deserved point at top-of-the table Chesterfield.
But the point in an entertaining Boxing Day clash came at a cost as Andy Monkhouse was red carded and winger Jack Compton hobbled off with a pulled calf muscle that could keep him out for at least a fortnight.
Pools fell behind in the 29th minute when Tendayi Darikwa gave the Spireites the lead only for Cooper’s men to pull level thanks to a Matty Dolan penalty three minutes into the second half.
James Poole was fouled inside the area by last man Sam Hird but referee Gary Sutton didn’t produce a red card to the amazement of everyone inside the Proact Stadium.
Cooper afterwards said from the touchline it felt like a “slapstick comedy” at times but was again delighted with the character shown by his Pools side.
The point means it is the fourth consecutive draw for Pools, who remain 14th in Sky Bet League Two but have now slipped to nine points from the play-off positions.
Cooper said: “It was a bit like a comedy show from time to time, with the help of the officials.
“The fourth official went into a huff with us all because he felt like he wasn’t getting spoken to respectfully enough and all we
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were doing was asking him a lot of questions and we weren’t getting many answers.
“It was a bit like a slapstick comedy on the touchline but the game on the pitch was pretty good.
“Chesterfield are top of the table for a reason and Paul Cook has done a fantastic job here and he was very complimentary about our young team at the end of the game and I appreciate it when people think we have a team that tries to play decent football.
“Everybody was patting each other on the back today, Christmas spirit perhaps.”
Cooper admitted though that he was frustrated with the referee’s decision not to red card Hird for his foul on Poole which led to the penalty.
The 46-year-old said: “The referee decides not to book him when James Poole is in on goal and about to shoot and he gives a penalty. He is the last defender and for me there is no other alternative.
“He chose not to blow his whistle for an awful long time during the game but in the second half he couldn’t wait to book Andy Monkhouse for diving, fine.
“And then he couldn’t wait to get the other card out for Andy’s challenge.
“But what can I do or say?
“We have been in that situation numerous times this season and we all get frustrated.
“It is not that we don’t like officials, it is just we feel having played the game, we see things that we don’t feel as though we are getting decisions for.
“But we have to put up with that and they have a bloody hard job and it isn’t made easy by us shouting down their ears for 95 minutes.
“We feel grief, loss, joy, we feel elation and I understand they have a job to do.
“All we want is some kind of consistency because how Sam Hird doesn’t get sent off, I don’t know.”
Cooper, while pleased with the point, was today counting the cost of their efforts.
Michael Duckworth took a hefty whack from Scott Flinders but played on and should be fine for Morecambe on Sunday but the same can’t be said for the suspended Monkhouse and the injured Compton, subbed after just 18 minutes with a pull to his right calf.
Cooper said: “Michael did get a smack round the ear off Scott but he is a tough cookie so he is thankfully okay.
“If he wakes up with a headache and that is the least of it then we are happy.
“We would be lucky to see Jack on the 11th [for Rochdale at home] though.
“He has felt his calf go, as he turned, so that his Christmas and New Year over I think.
“It is a shame but we have said we have been fortunate with soft tissue injuries so far, sadly not so against Chesterfield.”
Monkhouse meanwhile, apologised to his team mates after the match for his reckless second challenge which led to his second booking and subsequent red card.
Cooper said: “I said to him the red mist was still coming down for me a player when I was 38 and you can’t take that away but there has to be a switch in order to not make the second challenge.
“He has been humble enough to apologise and that is the right thing.
“But obviously for someone who has had a big impact on our season we are going to miss him.
“I am disappointed but delighted with the way the rest of them responded.”