COLIN Cooper heaped praise on the substitutes who helped to change the game and put Pools in the draw for the third round of the FA Cup – admitting those not in the starting 11 are “champing at the bit” for game-time.
Antony Sweeney and Jonathan Franks both took the opportunity to impress after they were introduced by Cooper in the second half of Saturday’s cracking cup tie with Coventry City.
And the gaffer admits the duo – and Bradley Walker who came off the bench – have all given him a welcome selection headache ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Cheltenham.
Pools were off the pace in the opening stages against League One Coventry but were revitalised in the second half, with management and players alike left disappointed to have not turned the half-time 1-0 deficit into what would have been a deserved victory.
But Cooper praised his players, particularly those who came off the bench and had such a storming impact as Pools spent the majority of the second period camped out in Coventry’s half.
“We have had a spell where the team has picked itself, which isn’t a phrase I like, but individuals have done enough to justify a place in the starting 11,” admitted Cooper.
“But what we’ve got is people champing at the bit.
“Franks, Sweens, Bradley, they are the three who came on and they will be saying ‘have I done enough to earn a starting position’?”
With a week before Pools go again, Cooper will closely assess his players in training before deciding on the starting 11 tasked with picking up three league points at Cheltenham.
He said: “We’ll see during the week but I have to say the ethos throughout the squad is excellent at the minute.
“They are working ever-so-hard, everybody wants to be part of the team.
“When they’re not they’re disappointed, if they’re substituted they’re disappointed, I haven’t got a problem with that.
“The ones who are coming on the pitch, it’s their job to say ‘can I make an impact and get in the starting 11’ and I have to say all three who came on on Saturday had an impact which helped us to get a draw.”
The management duo, Cooper and Craig Hignett, almost made their first change as early as 30 minutes in on Saturday as Pools struggled to get to grips with the game.
The boss resisted the urge as the hosts finally got a foothold in the tie but brought Sweeney on for James Poole at half-time before Franks replaced Jack Compton just past the hour mark.
“I was frustrated,” said Cooper of the opening to the game.
“It wasn’t working out the way we wanted it to.
“It was at that point where me and Higgy were in discussions saying look we are going to have to do something otherwise this is drifting. We can’t allow a game like Saturday’s to drift away from us.
“We had Brad stripped and we were going to put him on but we just got a foothold in the game at that point so I said let’s hang on.
“I was always going to make one change at half time.
“I needed someone to run forward and that’s what Sweens gives us.
“He runs behind defenders and stretches them and allowed us to get forward momentum in the game and I have to say that worked.” – Dominic Shaw