Hartlepool Utd boss praises players for comeback at Cheltenham Town

Colin Cooper on the sidelines during the game against Cheltenham Town. Picture by FRANK REID
Colin Cooper on the sidelines during the game against Cheltenham Town. Picture by FRANK REID

HARTLEPOOL United boss Colin Cooper praised his players for battling back to secure a 2-2 draw against Cheltenham Town – but admitted his decision to change formation didn’t work.

But the 46-year-old is adamant he has the players at his disposal to make the 3-5-2 system work for Pools, should they decide to go with it again instead of their usual flat back four.

Pools were forced to battle back from a 2-0 half-time deficit after goals from Jermaine McGlashan and Kemar Roofe had given the Robins a deserved lead at a blustery Abbey Business Stadium.

Thankfully for Cooper, two fine second-half goals from the lively stand-in forward Jonathan Franks, secured a deserved point.

The 23-year-old started up front alongside Andy Monkhouse in the new-look formation, which saw prolific Luke James and James Poole benched.

The point brought a welcome end to a poor run of three successive away defeats in the league for Pools, who are 14th in Sky Bet League Two.

Trimdon-born Cooper said: “That formation is something that me and Craig [Hignett] believe in.

“I think if you use it properly it can be a really effective weapon.

“We have two boys in Michael [Duckworth] and Darren [Holden] who are very

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expressive going forward so we thought with the three centre backs it may work.

“It didn’t quite because Cheltenham got their noses in front and we were under the cosh in the first-half and even though we created a few chances we weren’t really able to do it the way that me and Higgy think it can work.

“We had worked on it three or four days last week and every time we did, it looked a bit better but we were under pressure and the right thing to do was to revert to type and try and get a foothold back in the game.

“I thought it would work against Cheltenham, but it didn’t quite, if I’m honest.

“But it is something that I do believe in and we do have the players that can do it.”

As well as the new formation, Cooper also made three changes to the starting line-up with James, Poole and Compton dropped in favour of Holden, Antony Sweeney and Franks and the manager said it was an attempt to “freshen up” the team.

The system wasn’t working though and Pools reverted to a flat back four at the break, with Holden substituted for Compton, and it worked with Franks’ brace securing the point.

Cooper, a former Middlesbrough defender, added: “It was no disrespect to Darren but I saw opportunities that Darren had in the game that I thought maybe Jack Compton could exploit more in the second-half.

“It is harsh but it is nothing personal. We were 2-0 down and had to change it.

“We reverted back to type and pushed on with the game and we thoroughly deserved the point.”

Cooper admitted afterwards there was an “honest discussion” in the dressing room at half-time as his players looked to get back into the match.

Trimdon-born Cooper said: “We looked very nervous early on.

“We were two down at half time and I said to them ‘You have to show us what you have got.’

“Looking in their eyes at half-time I said: ‘Have you got it? Because if you have, you are going to have to bring it out.’

“They then turned things around. It wasn’t pretty but we got back in the game through Franksie having a gamble and we are constantly onto the forwards to have a gamble.”

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