MICKY Barron refused to be too harsh on his young reserve side despite their 5-0 drubbing at Mansfield Town.
The Stags fielded an experienced team and duly ran out comfortable winners on what was an afternoon to forget for Barron’s boys.
But the Pools coach - who isn’t afraid to lambast his players should he see fit - believes such encounters are all part of the learning curve.
“They got a little bit bullied if we’re being honest,” Barron told SportMail.
“They were up against some older, experienced players.
“Some of our younger lads could not handle it but that’s all part of the learning curve.
“We did try to pass the ball, which is what we want them to do, and the pitch was a rotter.
“But it was a disappointing result, we can’t hide that.
“There were a couple of bright spots and I’d say both James Poole and Jack Baldwin did very well.
“They made the pitch look better than it was and passed and controlled the ball well.”
Barron included nine players with first-team experience, including Poole, Baldwin, Darren Holden, Nathan Luscombe and Luke James, that quintet having been in and around the senior side this season.
But they were behind on four minutes when Matthew Rhead converted from a left-wing centre.
The striker had his second before the break, finishing a Colin Daniel cross from close range.
A poor clearance from Pools keeper Adam McHugh allowed Jordan Vilums to hook home a third after the break and the same player doubled his tally when firing in the rebound from a McHugh save.
And Daniel got in on the act late on to complete the rout.
The second-string do not return to action until later this month when Bradford City are the visitors on January 23.
Pools: McHugh, Rowbotham (Boagey 60), Buddle, Johnson, Holden, Hawkins, Baldwin, James (Mitchison 76), Luscombe, Rutherford (Walker 60), Poole. Subs not used: Foden, Tuck