Pools 1 Plymouth Argyle 0: Richard Mennear’s Mail match report

SAFE HANDS: Scott Flinders makes a strong block during the game against Plymouth Argyle. Picture by FRANK REID
SAFE HANDS: Scott Flinders makes a strong block during the game against Plymouth Argyle. Picture by FRANK REID

COLIN Cooper has spoken a lot recently about the need to create a “siege mentality” at the club and there was no better demonstration than against Plymouth Argyle’s Green Army.

Victoria Park was rocking as a defiant and resolute Pools made it four wins (including three in the league) and three clean-sheets on the spin with a battling 1-0 win over Argyle.

Afterwards man of the match Scott Flinders described the atmosphere as the best he has witnessed and likened it to a promotion party.

A little premature perhaps, but so much blood, sweat and tears had gone into the win both on the pitch and terraces, that the outpouring of emotion was inevitable.

October has been a good month and it is some turn around from the opening weeks of the campaign which saw Pools pick up just two points from the opening five league games.

Now though, sights are set firmly on climbing League Two and with Cooper’s side just five points off the play-off positions this could be a season to remember after all.

Mind, it could have all been so different had Cooper’s lieutenants crumbled after going down to 10 men in the 24th minute after Jack Compton – excellent in the 3-0 win over Exeter City the weekend before – recklessly lunged in on Jamie Reckord.

There was little protest from the players or supporters and whether he meant it or not, it looked a definite red card at the time.

In the past Pools have been criticised for letting their heads drop after such a setback but the recent spell of wins has instilled a new confidence and, roared on by the crowd, it seemed to galvanise rather than dispirit the players.

Their reward came in the 55th minute when teenage sensation Luke James tore down on the Plymouth goal, skipped past the hapless Neal Trotman like he wasn’t there before coolly slotting the ball past keeper Luke McCormick.

The goal was reminiscent of Michael Owen’s famous strike against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup and Cooper said as much himself after the game.

Poolies love a trier and my word James – who isn’t too dissimilar to former favourite Joel Porter – fits that category. He ran his socks off again and not for the first time this season, received a standing ovation from both sets of supporters.

It was the 18-year-old’s sixth goal in 11 matches and Pools will do well to hold onto him in January at this rate.

Cooper kept faith with the same starting 11 in a bid to recreate the impressive away form at Victoria Park but Pools were off the pace in the opening stages.

The patient home supporters – starved of any real quality for far too long – must have been wondering whether the three consecutive away wins prior to Saturday had in fact been a dream.

Plymouth forward Reuben Reid went close to opening the scoring in the fourth minute but his effort was blocked after a goalmouth scramble and Christian Burgess had to be alert when Reid nicked the ball past the onrushing Flinders moments later.

The on-loan Middlesbrough defender tackled the burly front man and cleared the danger but it wasn’t long before Plymouth were again on the attack and Flinders was forced into a double save.

First from Luke Young’s half-volley after his initial free-kick hit the wall and then the big stopper had to be on his toes to deny Romauld Boco who was following in.

Compton’s moment of madness came in the 24th minute, just 60 seconds before a poignant minute-long round of applause in memory of former Pools midfielder Michael Maidens, who tragically died in a car crash six years ago on Saturday, aged just 20.

The popular midfielder wore the number 25 shirt at Pools and both sets of supporters joined in the applause.

James Poole was moved wide right as Pools changed to a 4-4-1 formation and they just about managed to stay in the game until half-time after Flinders denied both Paul Hayes and Conor Hourihane.

Plymouth continued to bomb forward after the break, with Reid firing just wide of Flinder’s right-hand post two minutes after the re-start and the former Crystal Palace keeper was again at full stretch to tip Hourihane’s effort onto the post moments later.

The game’s defining moment came in the 55th minute when James conjured up his fine solo effort and The Vic erupted.

The impressive Simon Walton, a former Plymouth favourite, urged his teammates not to lose their heads.

Pools then showed great discipline to maintain their shape and great determination – summed up by Michael Duckworth’s run the length of the pitch in the closing minutes – to maintain their lead.

John Sheridan will wonder how his Plymouth side, who had 21 efforts on goal and 15 corners, came away with nothing. Flinders’ saves and James’ strike were two big reasons but the disciplined team display was the main one.

Pools may have won their latest battle but the league is a 10-month campaign and Cooper will be hoping his side show the same character and determination for many more matches to come, albeit hopefully with 11 men on the pitch.