Callum Cooke highlights the importance of Hartlepool United's success at York City as ex-Middlesbrough and Bradford City man stars with hat-trick of assists
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John Askey has craved the return to full fitness of some of his key players, with Cooke being one of those – and the midfielder repaid the faith shown in him on hist first start in over two months with a hat-trick of assists for Hartlepool as they cruised to a much-needed win over York at the LNER Community Stadium.
Cooke, back in the starting line-up having recovered from ankle ligament damage, was the architect for Askey's side throughout the afternoon when laying on goals for Jake Hastie, Tom Crawford and Nicky Featherstone.
Cooke’s first assist came with a clever first time ball from midfield beyond the Minstermen’s defence for Hastie to run onto and finish well before the 26-year-old then found Crawford on the edge of the area who produced another excellent finish for his fourth goal of the season.
And Cooke completed his hat-trick of assists when launching a counter-attack early in the second half, driving half the length of the field, before sliding a smart ball into Featherstone who tucked below the on-rushing goalkeeper.
It was a performance which highlighted just how much of an asset the former Middlesbrough and Bradford City man can be at this level, although Cooke, himself, was just pleased to get more minutes under his belt and help Hartlepool back to winning ways in what he described as almost a ‘must win’ game for his side against York.
“From a personal point of view I’m delighted with my performance. I’ve had a hand in all three goals with three assists and, importantly, I’ve come through unscathed with 85 valuable minutes,” said Cooke.
"But from a collective point of view as well, I don’t want to say it was a must win, but it sort of was, just to kick-start our season again.
"It was the performance as well which was really encouraging,” he added.
"We came out the blocks really quick and set the standard. I thought we played them off the park in the first half. It’s good to get the goal early as well as that gives you a bit of a lift, but I thought the lads were absolutely fantastic. We played them off the park in the first half.
"We knew what to expect in the second, they came into it a bit more, so it was vital to get the third goal – it took the wind out of their sails because they did start the second half really well, but the third goal killed their momentum.
"The surface helped as well, we’re on an immaculate pitch, and it shows what we can do on a good pitch.
"If we’re being a bit picky we could have scored more, and the clean sheet as well, but it’s important to get back to winning ways.
"Last week should have been three points, and we should have been two more points higher up in the league, but you've got to start somewhere.
"I said before the game we’ve got to stop saying ‘next game.’ It’s about the here and now and we’ve done that today.”