Pools boss Neale Cooper a relieved man after first win of League One season

Steve Howard misses a penalty after Scunthorpe had a player sent off for a handball on the goal line. Photograph by FRANK REID
Steve Howard misses a penalty after Scunthorpe had a player sent off for a handball on the goal line. Photograph by FRANK REID
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NEALE Cooper was today breathing a huge sigh of relief having endured a nerve-wracking afternoon as Hartlepool United recorded their first win of the season.

The Scot admits he could not watch when Steve Howard stepped up to take the second-half penalty which, if converted, would have sealed victory.

As it was, Cooper could only witness the home crowd’s despair as the striker’s low blast was palmed clear, leaving the score at 1-0 with 12 minutes remaining.

Luke James, however, volleyed a second for the hosts soon after, giving his boss a much-needed boost after a troublesome opening to the campaign.

“I didn’t watch the penalty, I just heard the crowd,” Cooper revealed.

“Sometimes I can’t watch because I knew what a second goal would mean for us.

“It was nerve-wracking at times because we kept giving them a sniff at 1-0.

“But we won and that was all we concerned ourselves with.

“We knew it would be hard as they have been struggling, but they try to play football.

“There were some good chances first-half, but at 1-0 you are hanging on a bit and we didn’t start the second half well.

“There was a difference in temperature second half and we missed a bit of sharpness after no game last week.

“We huffed and puffed and need better at times, but we will take a win – we’ve played a lot better and lost.

“The first win gives us a bit of confidence.”

The victory lifts Pools from the drop zone but keeps The Iron firmly rooted to the foot of the table.

Jonathan Franks had earlier scored Pools’ first goal of the season with a crisp first-half strike before James eased nerves in the wake of Howard’s penalty miss.

And Cooper admits it was far-from-fluent performance.

“We had a lot of attacking, but it didn’t quite happen for the strikers,” he said of Howard and James Poole.

“It was a bit of a mixed day in the end.

“After missing a penalty, you wonder what will happen, it could give them a lift but we got a second.

“But I was frustrated with the performance because we gave the ball away needlessly at times.

“Both teams needed the points, and the first goal helped us.

“It was a good move and a good finish from Jonny.

“It settled us to get a goal – and to go on and get two and not concede was a big plus.

“So it was a hard-fought one with lots to improve on, but the most important thing was we won and never conceded.”