NEALE Cooper believes Hartlepool United have all the makings of promotion contenders, but admits they are not the “finished article” – yet.
Already the Scot is casting one eye towards the summer, having identified the areas which he believes could bridge the gap to League One’s top sides.
Cooper was heartened by Pools’ display during Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat Huddersfield, having dominated until the fourth-placed Terriers stole a late victory.
“Tuesday proved that, to a point, we can compete with the top teams in this division,” Cooper said today as preparations stepped up for Saturday’s trip to Walsall.
“The boys have been brilliant, but we’re not the finished article. We miss quality at times in the midfield area, like Huddersfield have got, and we don’t have out-and-out wingers either.
“What you get from us is a team that will fight for everything.
“That comes with the boys’ nature because they’ll always give their all and they were hurting after Tuesday, which I like.
“We’ve got to try and turn those performances into points against the top teams, but, for that, we need a little bit more in certain areas and that’s my job to look at that.”
In the short term, however, Cooper believes Pools can keep their season alive with victory at Walsall.
“There’s a lot from Tuesday’s game that we can take into Walsall and I said that to the boys after the game,” he added.
“There’s 11 games to go and we’re still in the top half,with a few teams above us in sight.
“As long as that’s the case, we’ll be trying to win every game and this weekend is certainly a winnable one.”
Adam Boyd is set for a recall to the starting line-up at Walsall.
Pools will miss James Poole (thigh) and Luke James (back), so Boyd, who scored after coming on as a substitute in last week’s 2-1 win at Bury, could win a starting slot up front – in a straight fight with James Brown.
Boss Neale Cooper: “Adam has got himself back involved. He’s different to what we’ve got in that he can keep the ball.
“If you get a confident Adam Boyd then he’s got something no-one else has at this club.”
Brown, meanwhile, was benched for Tuesday’s defeat at Huddersfield after six successive starts – but came on for the injured Poole at half-time.