HARTLEPOOL United striker Marlon Harewood is getting closer to lift-off.
And that could spell bad news for League Two defences – starting with Northampton Town.
Boss Colin Cooper says that the experienced striker, signed last month after being released by Bristol City last month, is desperate to do well for Hartlepool.
Harewood has yet to score for Pools but is starting to look the part as his match sharpness returns after his period of inactivity at Ashton Gate.
And Cooper believes the 34-year-old will make a huge contribution in the vital run-in over the closing weeks of the season.
Pools are just six points and two places outside the play-offs with 14 games still to go.
“Marlon will be everything I’ve expected and more as time goes on here,” said Cooper who wants his old Nottingham Forest team-mate to help his young side and perform at a high level.
“The one thing that I said to him was that, first and foremost, was to be a focal point of our attack.
“He’s getting there slowly and he’s found it hard, while really enjoying the challenge.
“Marlon has certainly helped Luke James in taking some of his knocks for him – but he is desperate to score and desperate to do well.
“He said it himself and I saw it myself that he showed a little bit more on Tuesday at Southend – more aggression and more ummph.
“That’s because he’s built up his minutes and is finding his feet a bit more.
“The longer the season goes on, the more he contributes and if we are in the mix as the season progresses then he could come into his own.”
Cooper said he understands that it was a big ask for Harewood to come in and click straight away in the opposition box,.
But he has been encouraged by his partnership with 13-goal James, who set the ball rolling last Saturday in the 3-0 win over Newport County.
Cooper though says Harewood will start to make his mark, not just as a partner, but as a potent threat.
“Marlon could not expect to fire straight away given how long he’d not been playing,” said the 46-year-old.
“We have given him every chance to get as many minutes on the pitch as he can without killing him.
“Luke enjoys playing with him and now it’s about getting Marlon into a place on the pitch to score goals.
“He might take the knocks and the bumps for others and be a focal point, but he wants to score goals.
“Ultimately, Marlon Harewood wants to be banging in the goals for Hartlepool United.
“What might happen is that over a period of the next few weeks and months he will get stronger which could be brilliant for us.”
Harewood and James will spearhead the Pools attack at Sixfields as they look to extend their unbeaten run to five matches.
Pools have put together some great stuff, beating play-off chasing teams Dagenham & Redbridge and Newport before drawing 1-1 at top seven side Southend.
Cooper’s side had to do it the hard way at Roots Hall on Tuesday, fighting back from a goal down to draw 1-1 thanks to Brad Walker’s second-half stunner.
Tomorrow is a different kettle of fish.
The Cobblers, now under new boss Chris Wilder, are five points from safety and battling for their Football League existence.
“They are fighting,” said Cooper. “Chris had Oxford flying and now he’s gone into Northampton.
“The change of management will have galvanised them so we’ll have to be on our guard.
“There is not a great deal between the league, from where we are in ninth down to the bottom.
“There are no gimmes in League Two,
“If we are not well prepared and ready for tomorrow we’ll have our backsides kicked.
“But if we are ready and we can get our noses in front against a team who are used to losing that’s when you have to try to make it work.”