Hartlepool Utd boss feels six after Port Vale thrashing

Port Vale v Hartlepool United. Hartlepool score in first half.
Port Vale v Hartlepool United. Hartlepool score in first half.

COLIN Cooper was left fuming after his Hartlepool United side crashed out of the Capital One Cup following a humiliating 6-2 defeat to Port Vale.

The Pools boss said he couldn’t sum up how disappointed he was after seeing his side hit for six in the first round of the cup competition at Vale Park.

An 18-minute hat-trick from Ben Williamson in the first-half put Micky Adams’ side on course for victory and despite Pools pulling it back to 3-2 shortly after the re-start, it was all down hill from there.

A fourth Vale goal courtesy of Hartlepool-born Michael Brown - a summer transfer target for Cooper - and a Tom Pope brace wrapped up the convincing victory.

Sadly, it could well have been worse.

Scott Flinders was called into making four further saves to keep the scoreline to just the six conceded.

Defeat last night followed the opening day loss to Stevenage in Sky Bet League Two, to cap a poor start to the new season by the Clarence Road club.

Cooper, a former defender for Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest and England, found it hard to find too many positives from the display.

He admitted his side were asking for trouble through their inability to stop crosses into the box and then properly defend the ball when it did come in from the flanks.

The Pools squad will be in training at Maiden Castle today and their manager said they have three days to quickly improve.

A despondent Cooper said: “I can’t sum up how disappointed I am after watching that.

“It is not something that I am very proud of, if I am honest.

“A team that defends its 18-yard box like that is not something I can be very proud of.

“We have three days to put things right before Saturday.”

The thing that disappointed Cooper the most, was the fact his side failed to properly defend their 18-yard box and to stop the flood of crosses into their box.

He said the responsibility lies with the whole team and not just the defensive unit.

Cooper added: “Defending that 18-yard box is something we work a lot on.

“As an ex-defender you have to defend the outside of the box, in front of the box and in the box itself.

“That doesn’t matter whether you play Premier League, international football or in our case League One and League Two level football.

“If you don’t stop crosses, if you don’t stop shots or don’t head the ball when it comes into the box and that is the whole team implicated in that.”

Pools, who started with a new look 4-3-3 formation, actually started the brighter of the two sides but it didn’t last long.

Williamson scoring his first after eight minutes.

Pools equalised through a fine Jonathan Franks strike from 25-yards but Williamson then completed his hat-trick before the 18 minute mark.

A Neil Austin penalty made it 3-2 but then substitute Brown added a fourth before Pope helped himself to two goals to put the final few nails in the Poolie coffin.

Cooper added: “We looked bright in the early phases, as we did on Saturday.

“Against Port Vale we were a bit braver on the ball but then you look at the first goal.

“It is a centre half that has had a shot, Scott then makes the first save and then their centre forward reacts quicker than we do to put it in.

“We then scored a nice goal but again defending in front of the box let us down.

“The ball is fed in way too easy and we go 2-1 down.

“Then they scored from a cross and then another cross and another cross and a shot.

“I am certainly not going to highlight any individuals but as an ex-defender that is something that I look at.

“We didn’t stop the crosses, didn’t stop shots and not winning headers in your 18-yard box spells trouble.

“We got ourselves back into the game twice but then went on to concede almost immediately after.

“There is no doubting there was some good spells when we played some nice stuff and created chances but that is clouded over by not being able to defend out final third.

“If you can’t keep the ball our of your goal then you have no chance.”

- RICHARD MENNEAR