PROUD Colin Cooper today praised his Hartlepool United players for their “Never Say Die” attitude.
Pools secured a well-deserved point at Southend United last night to stay in the promotion picture with a trip to bottom club Northampton to follow this Saturday.
Barry Corr had given the home side the lead in the 43rd minute with a soft goal at a wet and muddy Roots Hall.
But Pools bounced back strongly after the break and secured the draw thanks to Brad Walker’s wonder-strike in the 59th minute.
The 17-year-old chested the ball down before volleying it first time into the top corner from 20-yards.
It meant Pools kept themselves in the chase for the play-off spots, even though the 1-1 draw saw them drop a place to ninth.
Cooper was delighted with the commitment, character and desire shown by his side, now unbeaten in four matches.
“The players have given each other everything,” said the 46-year-old.
“I’d said at half time, after going the goal down, what they had to do was to pull together.
“One or two were having a chip at each other but the only way we’d get back into it was by pulling together and my goodness they did that in the second-half.
“We have had to defend our goal to give ourselves the chance to go on and get something out of the game and the lads defended that 18-yard box with their lives.
“At the end I had a smile seeing the number of blocks and the number of people willing to put their bodies on the line for themselves, their colleagues and the club.
“As a coach, manager, whatever, that makes you proud seeing that level of commitment.
“Never Say Die is the Hartlepool motto and all of the players showed that level of attitude.”
l TURN to Page 46
l MATCH report: Page 46-47
“When I see players running out to block shots, and Darren Holden and others clearing balls off the line, it does make me smile.
“And then we see the technical ability of a 17-year-old midfield player who can do that.”
Walker’s second-half goal was a technically superb strike but while Southend had several chances themselves – including hitting the bar – Cooper thought his side could have scored more themselves.
He added: “I think we had a stonewall penalty turned down [on Luke James] and Brad had a one-on-one with the keeper in the first half and we said at the break if you are going to be clinical that has to end up in the goal.
“It didn’t and then Southend got their noses in front.
“You have to galvanise them and pull together as a group and the younger lads really took that on board and credit to those lads that have been around the block a little bit more as well.
“There was a lot of talk in the dressing room at half-time but what I saw after the break was some galvanisation.
“That makes me feel very proud.”
The Pools boss said the message to the players before an away game is always the same – make sure you come away with something.
And they didn’t let him down, with a well-fought point on the back of a good 3-0 win over Newport County at the Vic on Saturday.
Cooper added: “All we have said on every away trip is can we go home with something?
“There hasn’t been many occasions when we have been disappointed in the past – Newport and Wimbledon away aside.
“I can’t be disappointed after that performance though, I am very proud of the efforts that the boys put in.”