MATCH REPORT: Gulf in class apparent as Pools beaten at Forest

Hartlepool's Simon Walton (stripes) battles for the ball at Nottingham Forest tonight.

Hartlepool's Simon Walton (stripes) battles for the ball at Nottingham Forest tonight.

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TWO divisions separate these teams – and it showed.

So much so, Colin Cooper will surely makes allowances for the gulf in class when it comes to dissecting the merits of the cup exit.

For Pools were never going to compete with their Premier League-chasing hosts.

No, it is League Two where Cooper’s concerns lie, especially given the nature of their opening-day humbling at Rochdale.

They were simply never in it last night.

Prevented from knitting together anything resembling sustained possession, Pools drew just two saves from home goalkeeper Dorus De Vries – the first after 90 seconds and the last on 90 minutes.

For what passed in-between – Neil Austin’s late consolation apart - was, to coin footballing parlance, one-way traffic.

Cooper had reacted to the weekend reverse at Spotland by recalling striker Luke James to the starting line-up in a bid to solve the scoring conundrum.

Andy Monkhouse was relegated to the bench and so, too, was Sam Collins, while Peter Hartley was missing with a move to League One Stevenage in the offing.

His departure would free funds for reinforcement further up the park and that, while losing a talented player, would be very much welcomed by the boss.

Cooper admits he is yet to hit upon his preferred combination in attack and last night’s game drew to its conclusion with Steve Howard and Nialle Rodney as a pair.

James had previously led the line with much graft but little craft and service to the lone striker was reduced to hopeful punts.

With Southend United – and Phil Brown – next up at Victoria Park on Saturday, Cooper must very quickly unearth a solution to the offensive shortcomings.

But the Pools chief now has worries at the other end of the park to contend with, goalkeeper Scott Flinders a doubt for the weekend having aggravated a slight backside injury during the first half.

Some of the most important work of the next few days will come in the treatment room at Maiden Castle.

Pools were trailing by one when Flinders was forced off at the halfway juncture but they had seen little of the ball - or the final third - to that point.

Brad Walker was the man – or teenager – who scrambled De Vries into action early on when he spun smartly clear of two red jerseys before hammering on target from 20 yards.

His performance was, again, encouraging.

But Forest took firm control from that point onwards until Austin headed in to restore some pride to the scoreline.

The hosts’ first arrived on 33 minutes, Radoslaw Majewski delighting the home crowd – and maybe some of the away – with a fine, individual effort, jinking between a cluster of blue-and-white jerseys before hammering into the bottom corner from 20 yards.

There were chances aplenty for a second before, like the proverbial London bus, two goals came along inside as many minutes.

First, former Sunderland defender Greg Halford out-jumped all to head in an Andy Reid corner before the same supply line fed a far-post float onto the brow of Matt Derbyshire who nodded over substitute goalkeeper Andy Rafferty.

It could, and perhaps should, have been more, and the home team did ease up as the game reached its expiry.

But their dominance was not in doubt.

Pools, though, emerged minus an embarrassing scoreline and with a goal to boot, that cannot be underestimated.

Such statements of comfort, however, will not do come Saturday tea-time.

No, this can be forgiven, defeat at the weekend will not be so easy.