NEALE Cooper insists he isn’t making a “scapegoat” of any player at Hartlepool United – and says that all of his squad are pulling in the same direction.
The Scot made a statement ahead of last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Shrewsbury Town by dropping three senior players, Andy Monkhouse, Simon Walton and Neil Austin all relegated to the bench.
Monkhouse subsequently emerged in the second half to salvage a last-minute point for Pools, and Cooper has been pleased by his reaction over the past few days.
Speaking to SportMail ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Colchester United, an upbeat Cooper sounded: “Andy’s worked well this week.
“When players aren’t picked they’re frustrated and I speak to them – it’s not nice being left out.
“But the reaction I got from him was perfect.
“No-one is a scapegoat here – we’re all in this together, it’s not about picking out individuals.
“Certain players have to do better and get back to the standards I know they’re capable of – and they know that.
“But I feel that everyone is pulling in the same direction and we’ve got a lot of positives to build on from last weekend.”
Austin is set to continue on the bench tomorrow with replacement Jack Baldwin landing man-of-the-match plaudits against The Shrews.
And Cooper explained: “Neil is a big player for us but I felt I had to take him out.
“He’s not the Neil Austin I saw last season.
“So you have to work with him and see what you can do to get that back.”
Monkhouse, as well as Walton, could come into contention for a recall, with Cooper targeting the same approach which came within seconds of garnering victory at Bournemouth earlier this month, only a stoppage-time leveller denying them a 1-0 success.
And Cooper went on: “We might change it a wee bit.
“We need the sort of performance we got at Bournemouth.
“So we might change the way we play up front.”
Steve Howard is still struggling with the shin injury which required six stitches during the 5-0 defeat at Preston North End last week, while Walton has a slight ankle worry.
Both, however, are expected to travel to Essex.
Cooper’s big dilemma is whether to stick with a 4-4-2 formation or revert to 4-4-1-1, the latter almost certain to win favour.
POOLS: (probable) Flinders; Baldwin, Hartley, Collins, Horwood; Franks, Murray, Walton, Monkhouse; Sweeney; Howard. Subs: McHugh, Humphreys, Austin, Poole, James, Holden, Lynch.