COLIN Cooper will be looking to “keep the back door shut” as Hartlepool United try to get back into the top half of League Two with a win at Dagenham & Redbridge tomorrow.
Pools head south in 15th place, but just four points behind the ninth-top Daggers.
The top seven have pulled away slightly, but positions eight down to 16 are separated by only five points.
Pools have experienced a frustrating three-match run – beating York, losing at Wimbledon and drawing with Scunthorpe.
And Cooper is adamant any success will be built on defensive resilience.
“If we can be stubborn enough to keep the opposition out of our goal, we’ll win more than we lose,” said the Pools boss.
“But to get on the front foot and create some momentum, it’s important we keep the back door shut.
“I want us to have the confidence and belief going forward and we have done some good work on that this week.
“Against York, we played poorly and won, we then played well at Wimbledon and ended up losing and then more than matched Scunthorpe last week and probably should have won.
“If we take away the disappointment of the manner of the goals conceded at Wimbledon but show that stubbornness not to concede, we can give our forward players the chance to perform.
“A good performance away from home is one in which you don’t lose.
“A really good one is to go and do what Dagenham did at Rochdale last week – weather any storm that comes your way and then nick it.
“Luke James is scoring again and Luke Williams has looked a class act.”
Pools clearly have the quality going forward, but Cooper is mindful of the threat the Daggers have.
Dangerman is Rhys Murphy, a player Cooper tried to sign in the summer, who is supplied by widemen Zavon Hines and Mede Olito.
“Rhys Murphy is a potent threat in this league,” Cooper said.
“We had our eye on him in the summer but he wanted to stay down south.
“Rhys is an old fashioned centre forward and comes to life in and around the 18-yard box so we’ll have to be very careful.
“They play 4-4-2 and have two out and out wingers, so we need to look at the threat they might bring and try to counter them.
“Zavon Hines, who was used sporadically at Bradford last year, is a decent wide man and so is Olito.
“We will have to be on our toes in those areas and in and around the 18-yard box.”
It has the potential to be a great game – the Daggers have a great record at Victoria Road, with only Chesterfield and Rochdale having picked up more points at home.
Wayne Burnett’s side showed their ability last week by snatching a 1-0 victory at Rochdale, a win Cooper described as a “perfect away performance”.
But Cooper feels Pools are close to putting together a winning performance of their own.
“We’ve had a run where we felt we could have had nine points out of nine but we ended up with four,” he said.
“We’ll go to Dagenham confident we can give them a good game and I’m sure Wayne will be looking forward to trying to maintain their impetus after their success at Rochdale last week.
“But if we can stay solid, Wayne will know we are a threat.”