HARTLEPOOL United boss Colin Cooper has heaped praise on his players after a determined display saw them beat Sheffield United in the second round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
League Two Pools produced a commanding performance to put the League One side to the sword with a 1-0 victory courtesy of a 37th minute strike from in-form James Poole.
Last night’s win at Bramall Lane was far from comfortable – with the home side hitting the bar in the first minute – but a well-drilled and organised Pools side were worthy winners.
Cooper believes his side can compete with anyone when they perform like they did last night and the former Middlesbrough defender said they all deserved a “pat on the back”.
Cooper said: “Because they hit the bar in the first minute, comfortable is the wrong word to use, but after that we got ourselves into the game.
“Sheffield had a go in the second half, tried to get round the full backs, extra men through midfield and ultimately started putting ball after ball into the box.
“Sometimes that is what happens in football, sometimes it is tin hats time and you have to stand in there
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and dig it out.
“On the odd occasion they did get through us, Scott Flinders was in a good position to make a save or come for a cross.
“Everybody is contributing which is great.
“Everybody deserves a pat on the back with another victory.”
Cooper made two changes to the side, with Darren Holden and Bradley Walker coming in for the injured Sam Collins, out with a knee injury, and the suspended Jack Baldwin.
Cooper said: “My feeling is you play your strongest team that you can and try and win the football match.
“Winning football matches breeds confidence in the squad. We have lads who have come into the team and played in slightly different positions and they have done themselves a huge credit to themselves and the club.
“Bradley has come back in after a lay off and looked smashing and Darren Holden came back in and was also smashing.
“Neil Austin tucked in because we were short on central defenders and huge credit to them all.
“We have had to change one or two but we have still had the momentum taken through from Saturday and that momentum has to carry on to the next game.”
Cooper also praised the goalscorer, James Poole, for his clinical finish in the first-half.
“It was a smashing finish from James, long throw from Darren, flick on from Andy and lovely technique from James to see the ball end up in the back of the net.
“James is a really talented boy, he really is and at the moment he is feeling good about himself and getting himself into good positions.
“What I’m liking is when he gets into those nice, clever positions he actually recieves on his back foot and then attacks the opposition back four and you have Andy, Luke and Jack who can slide off the side.
“It was effective on Saturday and was effective tonight without the same kind of end product, but it wasn’t far off.”
Cooper is pleased with how his side is progressing and says victories and good performances are helping breed confidence.
He said: “I really believe we can compete but you can only compete if you do the ugly side of football.
“If your attitude is great, you work hard, you are brave, if you have the belief in what you are doing that gives you the confidence to be able to think we can compete and try and keep the ball out of our goal.
“We can create chances against most teams and I believe the players we have available will create chances in every game we play.
“Scott made the point Mansfield hit the post after four minutes on Saturday and they hit the bar after a minute last night but we go and win the games.
“Maybe Lady Luck might be turning towards us.”
Pools could have taken the lead before Poole’s strike but striker Luke James skewed his effort wide of the goal when put through one on one.
Cooper said: “Luke is devastated that he skewed his one on one because he has been working an awful lot on getting into positions and as an 18-year-old lad his job is to keep getting into those positions but to have the confidence and calmness to slide it into the corners.
“But without scoring, it was still another fantastic team ethic from him and the rest of the players.”
The draw for the next round, the northern section quarter finals, will be held on Saturday with the tie due to be played the week beginning November 11