AN emotional Colin Cooper labelled Hartlepool United’s 1-0 win over Plymouth Argyle the most satisfying victory so far and believes it was the day his players became a team.
Pools picked up all three points for the third successive League Two game thanks to a wonderful solo effort in the second half from Luke James, his sixth goal of the season.
The win was Pools’ fourth in a row, including the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy victory over Sheffield United, and it was achieved despite spending the majority of the match down to 10 men after Jack Compton was given his marching orders for a late lunge in the 24th minute.
Yet Pools didn’t fold and a proud Cooper said afterwards he was delighted with the bravery and strength of character shown by his side.
Pools now have 15 points from 12 games, and despite remaining in 16th position, the gap to the play-off spots is down to just five points.
Cooper, whose side face AFC Wimbledon at Victoria Park tomorrow night, said: “I wasn’t happy with the way we started the game but after Jack got sent off the plaudits I gave the payers after the game was that I felt it was the game they became a team, because of what they had to do to get a result.
“Every single one of them from Scott Flinders, through to the boys who came off the bench, have given their heart and soul to Hartlepool and as a
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manager I can’t be any more proud.
“My emotions took over at the end and I was really pumped.”
The former Middlesbrough and England defender said it can be easy for a team to lose its discipline after going down to 10 men but he was impressed with the way his players went about their business.
Cooper said: “Sometimes it is very easy to lose discipline because you feel you have been hard done by and at half-time I said the one thing we have to do is to maintain a level of discipline in our shape and formation and just say to Plymouth, “you have to break us down”.
“I felt as though in the first half, after Jack had been sent off, that once or twice we went running off our shape and that is where the extra man might tell.
“I said make them be good enough to come and break you down, we didn’t have to go chasing just make sure we were solid, disciplined and organised and to a man they all put in a real effort to make sure that didn’t happen.
“There was some hairy scary moments but having someone like Luke [James] who can turn a defensive moment into springing some kind of attack and getting you back up the pitch is vital.
“It is about gaining some yards, like American football I suppose, so that we are not just defending our box for 45 to 50 minutes but he obviously went over and above that.
“I got emotional at the end purely because I felt not only did they maintain their discipline and want to do the work and complete the task, but I thought they did it with real aplomb.”
The manager said his players did the club proud but he also reserved special praise for the “outstanding” support from the terraces.
Cooper said: “I have said before about making it us against the rest of the world and creating a siege mentality and there was a siege on because we were down to 10 men and they had all the possession.
“Sometimes it is easy to crumble and blame everything else but the crowd absolutely got behind every single one of them and the last 10 minutes the roars were fantastic and they continued as we got into the dressing room.
“I said to the players listen, they are right with you, so take that and soak it up.”