HARTLEPOOL United do not have to “park the bus” at the Pirelli Stadium to get a result against promotion-chasing Burton Albion tomorrow.
That is the view of Simon Walton, who believes Pools can get a point, or more, to ease their fears of being dragged into the League Two relegation scrap by playing the sort of football they had been producing before the team’s disastrous five-match losing sequence.
It will be tough, given the Brewers’ outstanding home record – they are unbeaten in six on their own patch.
On the flip side, Pools have not won on their travels since a 2-0 victory at Dagenham & Redbridge on February 8, two draws and four defeats following on from that fine success.
It would appear Pools would need a heavy defensive effort, hence the old “park the bus” analogy.
But Walton thinks the side can do it by playing football and hopes the realisation that the club is in a relegation struggle will sharpen minds which possibly may have thought the season was already over a few weeks back.
“We need to go there and get a result, but not necessarily grind it out,” Walton said.
“We have proved we can match any team in this division on our day.
“It’s not a case of grinding it out, but more about believing we can go there and turn them over.
“We are at the stage now we need a win.
“It’s not a situation we thought we’d find ourselves in, but maybe that’s the problem.”
Pools did show a little improvement at home to Chesterfield only to concede two goals which Walton said were “avoidable”.
Indeed, the hard-working midfielder believes a point would have been a fair result against a side who are above Burton in the League Two standings.
“It was one of those games I don’t think there was an awful lot in it,” he said.
“Chesterfield might have just had that bit of extra quality, given some of the players they have got.
“But I think if we’d had seen out a 1-1 draw, both teams would have been happy.
“But we’ve conceded shocking goals through sloppiness, laziness, however you want to put it.
“It’s not good enough, full stop.”
Walton will be one of the first names on the team-sheet at Burton, following his recent performances.
Boss Colin Cooper does not have a great deal of scope for major changes given the injury situation.
He could though make a tweak here and there, especially with Pools facing two games in three days over the Easter weekend – with most of League Two playing this afternoon, his squad have one day’s less rest ahead of Monday’s home clash with Morecambe.
Cooper may opt against starting Brad Walker and Marlon Harewood in both fixtures.
Harewood is just back from an ankle injury so may not be up to the rigours of two starts in quick succession, while Walker may get a breather after showing signs of an impressive and long first league season catching up with him.
James Poole could come in for Harewood and operate as the link between midfield and striker Luke James, while on-loan Sunderland player Connor Oliver looks set for his first Pools start tomorrow alongside Walton in the middle.
Oliver, surprisingly, played the full 90 minutes yesterday for Sunderland in their Barclays U21 Premier League game against West Ham.
Kevin Ball’s Black Cats were down to the bare bones, squad wise, and still had the chance of making the end-of-season play-offs, until conceding a last-gasp goal.
Despite playing yesterday, Oliver is likely to play tomorrow against the Brewers. Fellow on-loan Sunderland colleague Scott Harrison will continue at centre-half for the injured Christian Burgess (ankle).
Cooper’s only other selection posers are in midfield and in goal.
He must choose again between Andy Rafferty and Scott Flinders in goal, while he must decide whether to keep faith with Jack Barmby and Jack Compton in midfield.
Cooper also hopes to have hamstring victim Andy Monkhouse back on the bench tomorrow.
For Burton, Zeli Ismail (hamstring) and Damien McCrory (knee) are out for the season, while Rob Lainton (finger) is a major doubt.
Burton (probable): Lyness; Gray, Sharps, Cansdell-Sherriff, McFadzean; Hemmings, Weir, Palmer, Phillips, Kee, Alexander. Subs: Symes, Hall, Edwards, Holness, Bell, MacDonald, McGurk
Hartlepool (possible): Rafferty, Duckworth, Harrison, Collins, Holden, Barmby, Oliver, Walton, Compton, Poole, James. Subs (from): Flinders, Richards, Jones, Hawkins, Franks, Harewood, Walker, Monkhouse