Hartlepool boss Cooper expects testing time at Cheltenham

Colin Cooper

Colin Cooper

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COLIN Cooper is determined to make sure Hartlepool United keep looking up the League two table rather than down it.

And Pools have the perfect chance to return to the top half when they visit Cheltenham Town tomorrow (3pm kick-off).

Pools would be guaranteed a minimum of 13th place if they pick up three points at Whaddon Road, given that their hosts currently occupy that spot.

While the Robins are on an eight-match unbeaten league run, they are hardly flying on their home patch.

It is 40 days since Mark Yates’s team last found the net at home, with their last two matches there finishing goalless.

Cooper says that Pools are desperate to regain their touch on the road after three defeats as they look to keep their sights on the top half of the division.

“It will be a difficult game, Cheltenham are on a good run and they don’t give much away,” said Cooper.

“They are unbeaten since they lost in the FA Cup to Tamworth and their win at Morecambe last week, when we were playing in the FA Cup, has put them above us in the table.

“Cheltenham are very solid – they will be looking to cement what they did away with a result tomorrow.

“In our last few away games we’ve been beaten by the odd goal, so it’s important we are solid, compact and we try to get something positive from the game.

“I’m sure Mark will be viewing it the same way, to get a result to stay in touch with the teams above us and keep the distance from the sides below.

“At the minute, we’re bang in the middle and I’m not looking over my shoulder.

“But for that to continue we need to pick up points on the road as well as maintaining our good home form.

“We have a chance tomorrow and we’ll be putting out a side we feel capable of doing that and hopefully we can get a win.”

Cooper and assistant Craig Hignett are unlikely to deviate much, or indeed at all, from last week’s side who produced an excellent effort against Coventry in the FA Cup.

But the midfield trio of Jon Franks, Antony Sweeney and Brad Walker are all knocking on the proverbial selection door.

Franks and Sweeney both made impacts in the second half against the League One side after coming on for Jack Compton and James Poole.

Cooper may opt to retain the same starting XI, but knows he has impact players to introduce, should he need to.

One man definitely out of contention is Jordan Richards.

The defender has made some impressive displays down the right, but Cooper will now be without the young Wearsider.

“We’ve lost Jordan to a hernia and he’s had that done and Dan Jones, who has just come back from a knee op, turned his ankle in a reserve game up at Sunderland on Tuesday,” Cooper explained.

“We’re a couple of players down, but we’ve been lucky (with injuries) and we need that to continue because we haven’t got the biggest of squads.

“At the minute, we’re OK, but if we had a couple of injuries now or suspensions then we would be down to the bare bones.”

Cooper certainly has a fit and vibrant squad for tomorrow and insists there will be no distractions, despite a Tuesday trip to Coventry City in their FA Cup second round replay.

“I hope not,” he said. “Tuesday could be a million miles away for me.

“All the focus has to be on Cheltenham and only once we’ve hopefully got a good result from that can we re-focus for Tuesday night.”

Hartlepool (probable): Flinders, Duckworth, Burgess, Baldwin, Austin, Compton, Walton, Dolan, Monkhouse, Poole, James. Subs: Rafferty, Holden, Collins, Franks, Walker, Sweeney, Rodney.