NEALE Cooper was not short of words when it came to describing his side’s defensive showing during the 5-0 horror show at Crewe – “horrendous”, “embarrassing”, “shambolic” and “suicidal” each being levelled at his men.
A positive start in the Capital One Cup First Round counted for nothing as Pools’ backline capitulated in front of their disbelieving boss.
They were one down on seven minutes, A-Jay Leitch-Smith reacting quickest to a deflected free-kick to hook beyond Scott Flinders.
Five minutes later Pools switched off and allowed Crewe to break clear, teen star Max Clayton eventually turning home his first of the afternoon.
On 34 minutes the visitors were again guilty of a defensive lapse, Sam Collins and Neil Austin affording Mathias Pogba the freedom of the penalty area to volley a third.
And the hosts’ fourth – from a Pools corner – saw Clayton break free before finishing with ease from the edge of the area.
Pogba added a fifth late on, rolling by Collins before poking home, leaving an irate Cooper to reflect on the worst defensive performance he has ever seen.
“The defending was horrendous – the back four looked like they’d never even met each other,” he said.
“It was like Sam and Peter (Hartley) had never seen each other before.
“Defending like that deflates everyone and they seemed shell-shocked.
“The goals were an absolute joke.
“Every attack I thought Crewe would score.
“We started the first few minutes well and looked lively.
“But then you gift them goals and you’re 3-0 down.
“They were woeful.
“When you go ahead like they did you grow in confidence.
“The second one, our boys stopped. You don’t stop until you’ve heard the whistle.
“The lad for the third just walked between Aussie and Sam and they just looked at each other.
“Even the fifth goal, it was schoolboy stuff. Big lads getting bounced off by young, lean boys.
“I was embarrassed. I thought, ‘what am I watching here?’.
“It was suicidal. It was a shambles.”
Cooper likened the performance to last season’s 5-0 drubbing at Wycombe Wanderers, a game which also drew a similar, irate reaction.
He went on: “It was a bit like Wycombe, they battered us through silly mistakes.
“The back five’s job is to keep it tight, but we gave ourselves no chance.
“That’s one of the worst-ever defensive performances I have seen – they tortured us.
“I will never see a worse performance than that defensively.
“The back four were worse than weak.
“No-one was talking, there was no communication, and these are major players.
“We were blown away but it was our own fault.”