GUTTED Colin Cooper has called on his deflated Hartlepool United players to take the positives out of their dramatic FA Cup defeat to Coventry City
Cooper was pleased with his side’s performance but admitted he was disappointed with the match officials after a contentious free-kick decision in the final minute led to the Sky Blues snatching the win with almost the final kick at Sixfields.
Leon Clarke’s second of the night in the third minute of stoppage time saw Steven Pressley’s Coventry side come out 2-1 winners.
Jack Baldwin’s header in the 87th minute had cancelled out Clarke’s first-half opener in the second round replay.
Yet last night could have been so different if it wasn’t for referee Keith Hill penalising Baldwin for a contentious foul on the half-way line in the final minute.
Cooper described the decision as “soft, really soft”.
But the resulting free-kick eventually fell to Clarke inside the area to slot home for a dramatic Sky Blues win.
A deflated Cooper said: “It is only disappointing because I think the officials have let them put the ball in our box in the last moments of the game.
“I said [to the ref] I hope you are 100 per cent positive that Leon Clarke was onside for the first one and that it was a foul for the second one.
“He said ‘I am, that is why I gave the decisions’, so, I can only accept them.
“I think it is a soft free-kick to give but he has given it and we have not defended our box well enough.
“Leon is a good striker and has played at a good level for a while so to give him two or three chances in the game – and the way he took them both just shows why he has got so many goals as he has this season already.
“I think he was probably onside for the first goal which, for me, is not great from the defenders.
“It should have been a case of seeing the danger out and don’t gamble on offsides.
“And the second one, to have an opportunity to put the ball in our box, without earning the right to put the ball in our box, it is a bit galling.
“But you can’t do anything about it, the ref won’t change his mind.
“We will think we are right and he will think he is right and never the twain shall meet.”
But despite the galling last-second defeat, Cooper said there was plenty of positives to take from the game against League One opposition.
Cooper said his side can give anyone a game but praised Coventry for the way they play their football and said it is clear a lot of hard work has gone into their team, especially overcoming a 10-point deduction after going into administration.
The 46-year-old said: “There was a lot of positives all over the pitch for us and we have given a good team a good game and against probably one of the best striking partnership outside [James] Hanson and [Nahki] Wells at Bradford.
“I thought our centre-halves did very well against them.