COLIN Cooper’s Hartlepool United players will sit down to watch a video nasty after a devastating 4-2 home defeat to Mansfield Town all but ended their play-off hopes.
The Pools gaffer insists the result, and the second-half performance in particular, is a harsh lesson for his players who will sit down at the training ground when they return on Thursday to analyse the goals conceded.
Going into the game, 11th-placed Pools who are now nine points off the top seven, were formidable at home with four wins in five unbeaten matches.
But injuries to key Pools players mid-way through the second-half forced Cooper into making three quick substitutions, with Mansfield also bringing on recruits and switching from a 3-5-2 to a 4-4-2 formation and the Pools defence couldn’t cope.
Pools were leading 2-1 thanks to goals from Marlon Harewood and Luke James’ 15th of the season but when the injured trio of Harewood, Darren Holden and Jack Compton had to give way that swung the momentum in Paul Cox side’s favour.
On came club captain Antony Sweeney - who would also later depart with a nasty looking leg injury - James Poole and debutant Dan Jones at left-back but Pools struggled with Mansfield’s physical and direct approach, conceding three sloppy goals in the final 20 minutes.
Cooper admitted afterwards it wasn’t good enough and said his players will all sit down and analyse what went wrong.
The 47-year-old said: “If you look at the nature of the goals from our point of view it isn’t great.
“We hadn’t conceded a goal here in the last five and been unbeaten in that time so this is hard to take but all I have said to the players is there are lessons to be learned.
“It is one where we have to sit down together and have a look and make sure we don’t repeat that against Cheltenham Town on Saturday.
“The lads will be surprised by the nature of the goals when they watch them back because it is totally out of character but with all due respect it does happen now and again. That doesn’t make it any easier but it is my job to analyse and you learn more when you lose.
“The question I asked them was if you look at yourself as an individual is there anything you could do better to stop the ball coming into our box because they don’t do anything special to score those goals.
“For the young players in particular it is a harsh lesson and we have to make sure it is a one-off.”
Cooper said the ball for Mansfield’s first goal should have been dealt with, the equalising James Jennings goal from the free-kick was not “pretty to watch”, while he said more could have been done to stop the third headed goal from Matt Rhead.
“We have a challenge now,” added Cooper.
“For the first time in a long while we have lost at home and we have another home game on Saturday.
“I need to see some men take to the pitch, sometimes it is hard to play Saturday after a Tuesday defeat.”
He told SportMail: “I feel for them to a certain degree. People were shouting at me from the crowd, saying “that is not good enough”.
“Give them a bit of credit, they are doing okay.”
There was a couple of strong performances amongst the gloom and doom - Brad Walker, playing in a holding position in place of the suspended Simon Walton and live wire James.
Cooper added: “I have to say the pass from Brad into Luke for the first goal, the take and the finish was top class.
“Both of them were very good.”
- RICHARD MENNEAR