Hartlepool Utd boss won’t ban play-off talk after Newport County win

Luke James celebrates after scoring the opening goal during Pools 3-0 victory over Newport County. Picture by FRANK REID
Luke James celebrates after scoring the opening goal during Pools 3-0 victory over Newport County. Picture by FRANK REID

HARTLEPOOL United boss Colin Cooper hasn’t banned talk of reaching the play-offs after the 3-0 victory over Newport County.

But he has called on his side to maintain their winning form.

Goals from Luke James, Luke Williams and a comical own goal from Andy Sandell sealed the three points for Pools, who have risen to 8th in Sky Bet League Two – now just six points from the top seven.

They took the lead four minutes before half-time thanks to James’ 13th of the season after a sublime turn and finish just inside the penalty area.

The second came from a Simon Walton corner, with the ball ricocheting between three Newport players before eventually going in, and then on-loan Middlesbrough forward Williams wrapped up the win with a smart finish in the 93rd minute.

It meant back-to-back wins and a third consecutive clean sheet, form which Trimdon-born Cooper wants to maintain if they are to have any chance of reaching the play-offs.

Cooper said: “The players can talk about what they want.

“All they are doing now is what we did in October –putting ourselves amongst the pack. The top seven are

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a little bit away from everybody because they have been more consistent than the rest of us.

“In order for us to maintain any kind of impetus towards that, we can’t allow what is happening now to drop off.

“We said at the turn of the year that consistency is key. And then we went and lost three games.

“We are more than capable of giving anybody in this league a game but it is about consistency and winning games.

“We went through December in the league unbeaten [winning one and drawing three games] but it kind of drifted us away from everybody.

“So, it is about winning games in this league, you can be consistent but it is all about getting wins.

“Win at all cost? No, win well and defend your box at all cost and give the players who we know have ability to cut teams open the opportunity to win games.

“But you have not got to lose games first, and that is what we are managing to do at the moment.”

And the play-offs?

He added: “We are in there, giving ourselves a chance to be in the mix, and we go to Southend United [on Tuesday] and if we get a positive result great.

“But if not, it is not the end of the world.

“There is still plenty of football to be played. Our group are more than capable of hanging onto the shirt tails but it is about not having a burst and then dropping off for three or four matches.

“It is about how consistent can you stay for another month. Get to the end of March and see where you are.”

The 46-year-old thought his Pools side rode their luck in the early stages but praised the players for nullifying the Newport threat and going on to score three goals - two of which were very well worked.

Cooper said: “Our first goal is a nice bit of play, a wonderful cross from Jordan [Richards], Simon [Walton] puts it back into a dangerous area and the turn and finish from Luke [James] is exceptional.

“Half-time I was frustrated to be honest as I didn’t think our shape out of possession was good enough but the second-half we ironed that out and got the second goal, with a bit of luck which we haven’t had much of in terms of ricochets falling our way.

“That gives you a bit of a cushion and even though Newport put us under pressure, on the counter attack we looked like we could score every time.

“The last goal is lovely to watch as a manager. To watch somebody have the confidence and ability to take the ball, nutmeg someone, link up with a teammate and then smash it into the goal.

“I was really pleased at the end.

“We have had to ride our luck at times, in order to get the victory, but take it? You better believe it.”