What started as a year of promise for Hartlepool United is fast turning into something of a major disappointment.
Since ending December with solid and attractive and positive performances at Chesterfield and Morecambe, Pool have imploded.
They were beaten 3-0 at home by both Bury and Rochdale and on Saturday lost 2-0 at Fleetwood after playing 87 minutes with ten men.
Right-back Jordan Richards was sent off early on at the Highbury Stadium following a lunge at winger Jeff Hughes, who left the ground on crutches.
Hughes was sent tumbling off the pitch by a challenge which wasn’t malicious but just stupid.
It left Pool up against one of the division’s stronger and in-form teams a man down. That they didn’t succumb until the later stages is credit to the organisation and determination shown by the players.
The first goal came when burly striker Jon Parkin hit an instinctive curling finish across goal.
Two minutes later the second arrived following a quick counter- attack instigated by a tackle on Jack Baldwin by Mikael Mandron, the on- loan Sunderland forward.
He fed Alex Marron, who rolled his shot past Flinders.
Pool had one effort in the latter stages when Andy Monkhouse hit the crossbar.
Manager Colin Cooper left the ground without conducting any media interviews, but later spoke to the club’s website.
He said: “I was blocked off by the fourth official for the original incident and I felt as though the referee reacted to the crowd and the players around him rather than the incident itself.
“Having seen one view of it, it didn’t change my mind as I didn’t feel as though Jordan was off his feet or that it was a reckless challenge. I told the referee I didn’t agree with that decision and another two.
“However, having seen the incident closer, which by the way the referee doesn’t get that close, I have to say it was a reckless challenge and not only does Jordan arrive after Jeff Hughes has played the ball he also sends Jeff up into a cartwheel.
“So I felt like I had to go back into the referee’s room and tell him I had seen it again a lot closer and he had probably got it right.”
The dismissal meant striker Luke James was replaced by a defender in Sam Collins, leaving Marlon Harewood on his own up front on a trying afternoon for the new signing, who didn’t get much by way of service.”