Nialle Rodney in action against Almere City
Nialle Rodney in action against Almere City

ONE or two familiar failings were still apparent, but the main body of evidence was weighted towards improvement.

It is very early days, let us not forget, and Colin Cooper is yet to mould the maiden team of his managerial career, be that in personnel or formation.

Twelve months ago when a certain reporter forecast a campaign of struggle, things were different.

Summer recruitment was complete. A system set upon.

This time there is very much an essence of infancy to the Pools party.

And so it would be premature to hint toward either glory or gory over the coming 10 months.

Cooper, though, is acutely aware of the need for haste.

When pressed for his reflections on the 3-1 defeat – just about a fair result on the balance of possession – he ventured down a path towards “improvement”.

He does not talk, however, in terms of “months” and “years”, rather, it is “days” and “weeks” with the new man. That, in itself, is encouraging.

How many football fans have been mis-sold a five-year plan?

Cooper, it seems, is not in the business of patronisation, attempting to buy time by means of “long-term” rhetoric.

Nor can he be – the longevity of recent Pools managers has been more akin to the lifespan of a lightbulb.

No, Cooper’s focus is fixed upon the forthcoming campaign, and that means August 3 at Rochdale.

And there is work to be done, he acknowledges as much.

It would be foolish to merely label last night as something of a “fitness exercise” – it wasn’t a run on the beach after all.

It was, in the end, a fairly competitive, feisty affair – Jack Baldwin even found time for a July-defying yellow card.

And it was, it must be recorded, against a team of superior technical ability.

That, though, is a problem which runs far deeper than this latest Anglo-Dutch encounter. Almere, like they did last year, passed, passed and then passed some more.

Pools chased, chased and then chased some more.

Such pursuit led to the first goal.

Dragged out of position and absent of defensive shape as a result, Almere midfielder Jason Oost scampered clear down the left before digging out a cross for Ricardo Kip, unmarked at the far post, to turn home with a firm, first-time header.

That was on 17 minutes, it was deserved.

But Pools, drawing on that good old stereotype Bulldog Spirit, fought back.

Both Antony Sweeney and Baldwin exchanged unpleasantries with their midfield adversaries, the game and its outcome thus taking on added meaning.

And it was Baldwin who provided the free-kick for the leveller on 35 minutes.

Trialist Nialle Rodney has two weeks in which to impress and win a deal at Victoria Park, the 22-year-old’s instinctive finish here would have no doubt aided his cause.

Peter Hartley leapt at the far post to return Baldwin’s delivery and centre-back partner Sam Collins duly did the same at the near.

That left it to Rodney, lurking on the fringe of the six-yard area, to hook home an uncompromising volley to restore parity.

The second half witnessed a flurry of changes for both sides, but still the needle remained.

Both Rodney and Jack Compton – Cooper’s sole close-season signing – departed.

Rodney had scored, scaled good and bad in terms of all-round play, but, on the whole, had impressed.

Compton, meanwhile, had played within himself somewhat, the occasional flash of a trick and a turn of foot perhaps being forgiven in its rarity given the timing of the fixture.

Luke James, unsurprisingly, added zest to the attack and he went close with a stinging shot across goal on 75 minutes.

But Pools were to surrender the result in the final five minutes.

First, from a whipped centre, keeper Andy Rafferty spilled inside the six-yard area and Hartley’s attempted clearance rebounded off Jordy ter Borgh and into the net. It was sloppy, if a little unfortunate.

Then, just moments later, slack marking allowed Sander Keller to head a third – game over.

The result, ultimately, matters not. However, a couple of needless concessions and a dearth of real, goalscoring chances are familiar soundings.

Cooper knows there is work to be done, both on and off the pitch,

It promises to be a busy four weeks.

Pools: Rafferty, Austin (Richards 55), Collins (Walton 46), Hartley, Holden (Jones 55), Baldwin, Walker (Hawkins 60), Sweeney (Poole 70), Franks (Boagey 65), Compton (Monkhouse 60), Rodney (James 60).