Neale Cooper to focus on defence ahead of trip to Colchester United

Scott Flinders dives to his right to make a spectacular save. Picture by FRANK REID
Scott Flinders dives to his right to make a spectacular save. Picture by FRANK REID

NEALE Cooper will today get down to work with his defenders after admitting they are going through a “hard time” right now.

Pools’ preparations for Saturday’s trip to Colchester United – who sacked manager John Ward this week – have been disrupted by the torrential rainfall which has hit the region in recent days.

Yesterday’s session was scrapped and Cooper and his coaching team of Micky Barron and Ritchie Humphreys have been forced to slightly reshape their plans.

However, their main focus remains the back four and, with seven goals having been shipped in the last two outings, the boss told SportMail that his rearguard must improve.

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do defensively – we’re going through a hard time back there at the moment,” said Cooper.

“We’ll work at that every day this week, but they have to be better.

“You’ve got to learn how to defend when you’re attacking, so if it does break down then you’re in a position that you won’t get hurt.”

Cooper’s final point is referencing the concession of the second goal during Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Shrewsbury Town, the visitors waltzing upfield from a Pools attack before taking the lead eight minutes from time.

Substitute Andy Monkhouse did rescue a point for the hosts, but Cooper is nonetheless irked by the soft nature of the goals conceded.

“We were attacking on Saturday and then lost it - bang, the boy was straight through,” he reflected.

“That goal was mental.

“The two centre-backs were both flat and I just think we’re going through a hard time defensively.”

Cooper, though, does see evidence for potential improvement.

“We’ve actually kept two very good clean sheets this season and were seconds away from a third (at Bournemouth),” he went on.

“They are good players, I know they are, we just need to be better as a unit and more consistent.

“They know that, because you can’t concede twos, threes and fours and expect to get anything from a game.”

Cooper is expected to keep faith with the same back four of Jack Baldwin, Sam Collins, Peter Hartley and Evan Horwood for the journey to Essex.

Elsewhere, weekend saviour Monkhouse is pressing for a return after his first goal of the season.