Hartlepool United’s Neale Cooper relishes final test

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NEALE Cooper expects his Hartlepool United side to face another tough test when they take on Newcastle United tomorrow night.

The Scot has so far been impressed with Pools’ unbeaten home form during pre-season, which continued on Saturday with a 1-1 draw with Championship side Hull City at Victoria Park.

That was on the back of impressive displays against Sunderland and Middlesbrough.

But he thinks Alan Pardew’s men will prove their toughest test with the Premier League start less than two weeks away.

Cooper just hopes it goes better than the last time the sides met in a friendly with him in the dugout.

That game at The Vic ended in a 6-0 mauling back in the summer of 2003 during his first spell at the club, with Alan Shearer scoring a hat-trick.

The Pools chief said: “I am very much looking forward to the Newcastle game. It will be a big test for us and I’m sure Newcastle will send a strong team.

“I’m sure the boys are looking forward to it. They have loved playing in the Sunderland and Middlesbrough games, where the crowd has been really good.

“Sunderland brought 3,000 and there was a great atmosphere and banter between two rival teams.

“It is a big test but again it is more fitness level for the players.”

Cooper saw his first-choice 11 put in a solid display against Hull, managed by former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce.

Bruce named a strong side but it was Pools that took the lead through Jonathan Franks.

The lively winger, pushed up front at the start of the second half, took advantage of a Steve Howard lay-off to fire home a half-volley in the 58th minute.

Hull responded on 72 minutes after a clumsy spill from keeper Scott Flinders allowed Cameron Stewart to equalise.

But Cooper was pleased with the overall performance.

He said: “I was really pleased with the shape again. It is so important that everybody seems to know their jobs.”