Hartlepool United boss targets ten points as a minimum

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TEN points and a place in the top half of League Two.

That is the minimum requirement from boss Colin Cooper as Hartlepool United enter the last six games of the season.

Pools are in decline, three defeats in a row, two at home have seen them slip from just outside the top seven to 14th.

There are mitigating factors – a small squad damaged by a lengthy sick list – but Cooper is demanding a strong run-in from his side, starting with a win at struggling Portsmouth tomorrow.

“We are out to finish top half – if we don’t I’ll be disappointed, as this group should not be bottom half of the table,” said the manager.

“The challenge is to get better.

“My belief is if we finish bottom end of the table, it’s flat and not a justifiable ending.

“There are 18 points to play for, how many can we get?

“My challenge is 10, at least, and looking at the games, why not?

“That will see us top half – if we don’t, I’ll be disappointed, very disappointed.

“Depending on whether people will step up now and say they want to finish top half will determine where in table we finish.

“If they do, we could be eighth, if they don’t we could be 18th – that’s the challenge.”

Meanwhile, Scott Harrison and Connor Oliver may not find their way onto the starting team-sheet at Hartlepool United.

Colin Cooper brought in the two defensive players as cover after seeing his Pools squad stretched to the absolute limit.

Neil Austin (toe) and Antony Sweeney (hamstring) are out for the rest of the season and while Andy Monkhouse (hamstring) is doing some running row, there is no sign of him returning to the field.

With striker Marlon Harewood out of tomorrow’s trip to relegation-battlers Portsmouth with an ankle injury, Cooper is minus four of his match-day party of 18.

Throw in the fact that Christian Burgess and Simon Walton are one game away from a suspension and the Pools boss needs fresh legs.

Step forward Harrison and Oliver, who took part in a full-scale in-house practice match at Maiden Castle on Tuesday.

Harrison, who has made 16 appearances for the Sunderland U21 team in the Barclays Reserve League will cover the centre-half berths.

Oliver has not played in the Football League, though he has eight games under his belt for Kevin Ball’s team.