Hartlepool United’s Neale Cooper: We will fight on

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NEALE Cooper insists he and Hartlepool United will “battle on” – welcoming tonight’s visit of Sheffield United as “just what we need”.

Pools take on the pre-season title favourites having slumped into the bottom four following Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Colchester United.

Only Bury now separate Pools and the foot of the table after a run of two points from the last five matches.

Cooper will react to his side’s latest defensive trauma by dropping either skipper Sam Collins or player-of-the-year Peter Hartley.

And the Scot believes that, with the home crowd behind them, this evening’s clash could bring out the best in his men.

“I think this game could be what we need,” Cooper said. “It can’t get any lower than we are at the moment. We have to improve and I think we will.

“It’s the type of game, against a big club, which will hopefully bring out the best in our boys.

“We’re desperate to turn things around and I believe that one positive performance and result will do that.”

Cooper has thanked the club’s owners, IOR, for their support during what he admits has been a difficult period.

“The club has been fantastic with me and we have to battle on,” he said. “I spoke with them last week. It’s been a difficult spell for us but we’re all in this together.”

Jack Baldwin will start at centre-back against the Blades, where he will most likely be joined by Hartley. Neil Austin will return to right-back, leaving Cooper with a choice between Simon Walton and Tony Sweeney in the centre of midfield.

James Poole is an option in attack but Andy Monkhouse is also in line for a recall, meaning Craig Lynch, scorer at the weekend, could be pushed further forward in support of Steve Howard.