Hartlepool Utd boss’ difficult decison to leave out players for Cheltenham Town clash

Antony Sweeney leaves the field after being substituted for James Poole during the game against Cheltenham Town. Picture by FRANK REID
Antony Sweeney leaves the field after being substituted for James Poole during the game against Cheltenham Town. Picture by FRANK REID

COLIN Cooper insists it was a “difficult” decision leaving both Luke James and James Poole out of his Hartlepool United line-up, writes Richard Mennear.

But Cooper said he was delighted with the impact made by stand-in striker Jonathan Franks who bagged a second-half brace to rescue a deserved point for Pools at the Abbey Business Stadium.

James and Poole have been in fine form so far this campaign but Cooper moved to freshen things up against Cheltenham Town in a bid to end Pools’ poor away form.

In came Franks, Darren Holden and Antony Sweeney as Pools lined up in a new-look 3-5-2 formation, with the former Middlesbrough midfielder leading the line.

Cooper, 46, said: “Franksie really enjoyed his chance to play through the middle, that is where he wants to play and he took his chances nicely.

“He has been looking really sharp and was desperate to have a go through the middle.

“We have used him in a few positions but the longer the game went on the more of a threat he became.

“Franksie can shoot off both feet and the first goal is him gambling on the back of the defenders, especially with the wind playing havoc.

“He did and it was a nice finish. For the second goal he has had a wriggle on the edge of the area, got a shot off and it went in off the post.

“First half he had one disallowed, the keeper made a good save, and he poked one wide in the second when Andy [Monkhouse] slid him in.

“He could conceivably have had four or five but to get two goals is really good.”

Trimdon-born Cooper admitted afterwards it had been a “difficult” decision to leave Poole and James out given their form but said he felt the 19-year-old top scoring striker, in particular, was in need of a rest.

Cooper added: “Luke [James] has been terrific and worked extremely hard and took some knocks and he probably won’t thank me for not playing him.

“Against Coventry, for instance, against three centre backs it was really hard for him and he put in a hell of a shift.

“Franksie has been champing at the bit and looked really bright and me and Craig [Hignett] had a chat and said ‘let’s try it and freshen it up a bit’.

“More and more teams are looking to counter what Poolie has been doing and we have to be clever with that.

“Sweens gives us something different with that because he is a runner, rather than playing in the pocket.”

Winger Jack Compton was also dropped to the bench against the Robins but their manager praised the attitude of the trio, with Compton and Poole both coming on as second-half substitutes and helped to turn the game around.

Next up for Pools is the FA Cup Second Round replay away to Coventry City on Tuesday.

Cooper added: “Jack, Luke and Poolie all took it in the right way and certainly for Poolie and Jack they came on and made an impact and that is all you ask.

“I know for a fact that Luke will be chomping to play against Coventry City and we will have a look and a think and look to find a solution to get through to the Third Round of the FA Cup.”