PLACES are still up for grabs in Hartlepool United’s starting line-up and manager Colin Cooper has called on the fringe players to stake a claim.
In recent weeks, Cooper has been forced to pick from the same crop of 18 players, following injuries to Michael Duckworth and Neil Austin and the sale of Jack Baldwin to Peterborough.
Cooper opted for the same team that beat Torquay in last Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Wycombe but made one change for the midweek draw at Accrington Stanley, with Jonathan Franks replacing experienced striker Marlon Harewood.
James Poole also came off the bench, along with midfielder Antony Sweeney, and Cooper wants to see the players “spark” in training and force his hand.
Cooper added: “As much as you have your ideas, somebody might spark me on Friday and I’ll say ‘right, it’s your turn’.
“I gave Poolie 10 minutes at Accrington. Against Torquay, it was Marlon’s best performance for us and Luke James is Luke James.
“Between those, Jonathan Franks, Nialle Rodney and Jack Compton we certainly have options.
“But it is whoever desperately wants to get on the field and say ‘it is my turn and I’m going to grab it’.
“That is the challenge to everybody.”
Between now and the end of the season, Pools need to win two more matches than Southend and Plymouth Argyle if they are to make the play-off places.
Pools will re-assess their chances after tomorrow’s Victoria Park match against Bristol Rovers.
Cooper reflected: “Once you get into the single figures game wise – as we will be after Saturday – that challenge becomes tougher every week if you don’t start making the gap smaller.
“Let’s see where we are after Saturday night.”