A BAD week last night got worse for Hartlepool United.
It started with a demoralising 2-0 home defeat to Bury, followed by star striker Luke James handing in a transfer request before loan target Christian Burgess then signed for Peterborough United before kick-off last night.
The last thing Colin Cooper needed then, was for visitors Dagenham & Redbridge to take an early lead.
But his worse nightmares came true in only the fifth minute.
Luke Howell finished past Scott Flinders, another sloppy goal conceded by Cooper’s side.
Pools then started to dominate the game, at least in terms of possession, but clear chances on goal were few and far between.
Just when the home side looked like they may get back into the match, a poor misplaced pass from Neil Austin in the 64th minute led to the Daggers sticking the knife into the heart of Pools through Abu Ogogo’s clinical finish.
Defensive errors on the pitch are not helping the club’s off-the-field problems, with highly-rated James the centre of intense transfer speculation ahead of the transfer window slamming shut on September 1.
Confidence levels are rock bottom, the defence are letting shoddy goals in and up the other end the forward players are struggling to score.
Dagenham & Redbridge were nothing special, with veteran striker Jamie Cureton their star man. But Bury were nothing special either on Saturday and that is the most worrying part.
The performance last night was actually better than the weekend’s offering, believe it or not. Pools kept the ball better and at times created some good opportunities to score.
But they weren’t taken and they are yet to score in three league matches.
Defeat last night was the third straight loss in League Two and fourth overall from the opening four matches of the new campaign, with just the two goals scored (in the 6-2 Capital One Cup mauling) and 11 conceded overall.
It is a sorry state of affairs.
One win may well change the course of the season but it is how long second-bottom Pools have to wait ahead of two tough away matches at Wimbledon and then Cheltenham Town.
Pools started poorly last season as well but at least they managed to sneak a couple of hard-fought draws against York City and Torquay United.
This side doesn’t look capable of managing even that at the moment.
Clearly reinforcements are needed and soon, all over the pitch if truth be told, if Cooper is to arrest this alarming slide.
Last night the manager again changed his formation, this time playing Michael Woods and Ryan Brobbel in a new-look diamond formation – similar to the one used to good affect last season – with Woods playing just behind Jonathan Franks and James who was playing just 24 hours after handing in a transfer request.
Stuart Parnaby was switched from the right wing to the holding position in place of Tommy Miller, who missed out through injury but is expected to be fit for Saturday.
But the home side didn’t get chance to settle into the new formation before they conceded after just five minutes.
Cureton played in Howell on the right-hand side of the penalty area and his shot took a deflection off Darren Holden through Scott Flinders and in.
It just about summed up Pools’ luck.
Cooper’s side were rocked and it took them about 15 minutes to get themselves back into the game, Brobbel and Woods enjoying some nice interchanges of play.
Pools then put the Daggers under a spell of pressure but were unable to test their keeper Liam O’Brien.
The first real chance – after Ashley Hemmings had curled a free-kick wide for Wayne Burnett’s side – came in the 35th minute through Franks.
A Brad Walker free-kick fell to the forward six-yards out but he screwed his shot wide.
Two minutes later and Cureton muscled Matthew Bates off the ball 20-yards out but his dipping effort was over Flinders’ crossbar.
Pools should have been level in the 28th minute – Franks again with the chance – this time eight-yards out after good work from Brobbel.
But Franks shot high over the bar.
Flinders then did just about enough to save from Ogogo before James - who was given a warm reception by home fans - headed over the bar up the other end.
Pools were at least keeping hold of possession better than previous games and chances were being created.
After a promising end to the first-half, it took the home side a good ten minutes to get back into their rhythm and they should have equalised in the 58th minute.
Franks taking advantage of a misplaced back pass to round O’Brien only to then drag the pass into the box behind the onrushing James. Another poor decision at a key time.
The lively James then did have a sight on goal, forcing O’Brien to tip his 25-yard strike over the bar.
But then, similarly to Saturday, Pools were dealt a hammer blow when they were on top.
Ogogo with a clinical finish after the Daggers took advantage of a poor misplaced pass from Neil Austin near the half-way line.
It again took the wind out of Pools.
Cooper looked to his subs to re-energise the side and Jack Compton, in particular, certainly looked eager to impress after being dropped from the squad at the weekend.
Pools continued to press for their first league goal - Franks forcing O’Brien into a save and Compton screwing a shot wide - but they couldn’t find a way back into the game.
Austin, uncharacteristically, then had an overhead kick inside the six-yard box tipped onto the crossbar in the 88th minute before James forced the Daggers keeper into another save as the clock ticked towards full-time.
Cooper started with a diamond formation but the spark has gone out of this Pools side and reinforcements and goals are desperately needed.
Pools (4-4-2): Flinders, Duckworth, Austin, Bates, Holden, Parnaby (Hawkins, 71), Walker (Compton, 60), Brobbel, Woods (Harewood, 66), Franks, James.
Subs Not Used: Dixon, Richards, Collins, Smith.
Dagenham & Redbridge (4-4-2): O’Brien, Connors, Doe, Saah, Cureton (Goldberg, 90), Ogogo, Chambers, Howell, Partridge, Hemmings (Porter, 81), Boucaud.
Subs Not Used: Cousins, Doidge, Labadie, Green, Gayle.
Booked: Chambers, Connors.
Goals: Howell (5) Ogogo (64)
Referee: Peter Bankes (Merseyside)
Attendance: 2,792 (70 Dagenham)