Hartlepool Utd boss tells lads to ‘puff their chests out’

Colin Cooper and Malcolm Crosby against Wycombe Wanderers. Picture by FRANK REID
Colin Cooper and Malcolm Crosby against Wycombe Wanderers. Picture by FRANK REID

COLIN Cooper has called on his players to “puff their chests out” when in winning positions in order to see out games.

The former Middlesbrough and England defender was left frustrated at the end of the game, not only by the performance of the referee, but also the inability of his side to take all three points after taking the lead.

Jack Barmby’s 42nd minute strike had put Pools 1-0 up but two soft goals in the following 45-minutes meant it was a long-trip home from Buckinghamshire for the Clarence Road club.

Cooper denied defeat was a “wake-up” call, adding they had that in their last away defeat – the disappointing 2-0 loss at strugglers Northampton Town at the end of February.

He said the players knew full well what to expect and expressed his disappointment at the way the two goals were given away far too easily at Adams Park.

“This wasn’t a wake up call, we had that at Northampton,” Cooper told SportMail.

“We beat Torquay at home last week and the players knew, we all knew, what to expect.

“The game has hinged on three or four incidents and that happens in football.

“If they go for you, then you get on the front foot.

“But the goals we conceded are not clever but that is what you have to deal with in League Two – balls into the box and we weren’t good enough at that.”

Going into the game, Wycombe were fourth bottom of League Two but were unbeaten in five matches, while Pools are relatively comfortable in the top half of the table trying to push on for the play-off spots.

Pools, though, were unable to deal with two balls into the box, which ended in Scott Flinders twice picking the ball out of the net.

While Cooper wasn’t questioning the players’ work rate or commitment, he did want to see them take hold of the game more.

Cooper added: “Wycombe are fighting for their lives.

“You saw the reaction of Gareth Ainsworth at the end of the game. We are in a different position.

“We should be puffing our chests out and saying bring it on, especially at 1-0 up and we didn’t puff our chests out enough in the second-half.

“We allowed Wycombe to come onto us too much and that gave them the opportunity to put the ball into our box.

“We knew it would be a tough game.

“I can’t fault the work rate or work ethic but again, what I have said many times, is what happens in both 18-yard boxes is what happens in this league.

“If you put enough balls into the box then you are going to be tested physically and mentally and as the afternoon went on they did that more and more.”

Cooper added: “You are better off winning and losing rather than drawing but in order for us to bridge the gap we have to win games now.

“You should really want to roll your sleeves up and make sure they have to do something special to get back into the game if you want to bridge the gap.

“Did we do that enough?

“We worked hard, we didn’t roll over but Wycombe exerted some pressure on us and you are talking about two balls into the box.”