POOLS IN HOLLAND: Almere City 3 Hartlepool United 1

OFF THE MARK: Pools return to the centre circle after scoring against Almere City

OFF THE MARK: Pools return to the centre circle after scoring against Almere City

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COLIN Cooper’s first game in the Hartlepool United dugout ended in defeat as Almere City emerged 3-1 winners in Heiloo.

The new Pools boss handed debuts to winger Jack Compton and trialist Nialle Rodney and it was the latter who bagged the visitor’s only goal.

Almere were first to threaten but midfielder Ricardo Kip sliced wildly into the side-netting from eight yards having been slipped in on goal by Jason Oost.

But Kip made no such mistake on 17 minutes when the same pair combined for the game’s opening goal.

Oost skipped clear down the left before digging out a deep cross for his team-mate to head home from six yards out.

That prompted a response from the Englishmen and the leveller arrived on 35 minutes.

Jack Baldwin’s out-swinging free-kick was returned first into the danger zone by Peter Hartley and then Sam Collins before Rodney, swivelling six yards out, volleyed beyond Marco van Duin.

There was one last chance before the interval for the hosts to regain their lead but Baldwin blocked bravely from Fabian Serrarens’ 18-yard blast.

Pools made multiple changes after the break with Rodney and Compton both making way.

It was Almere substitute Hicham Faik who came closest to restoring their lead before the hour mark when he danced between bodies before under-cooking an audacious lob from the edge of the area.

Pools had to wait until the 75th minute before they threatened the home goal, James Poole freeing Luke James only for his weighty connection to be snaffled by van Duin.

But it was the Dutch who finished stronger and Jordy der Burgh restored the lead when Peter Hartley’s goal-line clearance cannoned off the striker and back into the net.

And there was still time for Sander Keller to head an injury-time third to seal victory.