NEALE Cooper had no hesitation in labelling Scott Flinders’ second-half save against Sunderland as the best he has ever seen.
With Pools leading 1-0 and just 15 minutes remaining of last night’s friendly, it looked for all the world as if Frazier Campbell had drawn the Black Cats level when he steamed onto Jack Colback’s corner and planted a header on goal.
But Flinders demonstrated razor-sharp reactions to produce a strong arm and somehow claw the ball up and over the crossbar.
It was one a series of saves the fit-again goalkeeper – who missed the two games in Holland with a thigh strain – pulled off as the visitors laid siege to the home goal after the break.
And a proud Cooper told SportMail today: “That is one of the best saves I have ever seen, in my life!
“The lads were taking the mick in the dressing room afterwards saying ‘in your life gaffer, are you sure?’ – but I said ‘yeah, in my life’.
“It was like Gordon Banks in the World Cup in 1970 – it was phenomenal!
“But I thought he was exceptional throughout the night.
“We didn’t have him in Holland and had young Dominic (Scott) in goal.
“But having Scott back made the whole defence more confident and Sam (Collins) and Peter (Hartley) in front of him were excellent as well.”
The winning goal came courtesy of Steve Howard on nine minutes when he got the better of Titus Bramble to hammer home his first since returning to the club this month.
And Cooper was delighted with his match-winner’s, and the team’s, overall performance.
“It was written for Stevie really, but I thought he was excellent,” the Scot went on.
“He still needs games but I thought he was a real handful and worked well with Luke James up front.
“But the team were excellent after what has been a tough pre-season.”