HARTLEPOOL boss Neale Cooper has revealed Antony Sweeney is growing frustrated with his loss of form – but admits he cannot drop the midfielder.
The 29-year-old has struggled so far this season yet, while other senior stars have been axed, he has retained his place in the side.
Cooper will keep faith with Sweeney (pictured) for tonight’s visit of Bradford City in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Second Round.
But the Pools boss admits he wants to see more from one of his most-trusted troops.
“Sweens is going through a hard time with confidence and he knows that,” said Cooper.
“You know what you get from him in terms of effort – 100 per cent every week. You could never accuse him of not trying. He’s just gone back a wee bit.
“I’ve spoken to him and he agrees. He said, ‘I’m sorry, I’ve got to get better’.
“He was upset on Saturday (at Crewe) because he didn’t think he’d done well. And he does have to do better on the ball. That quality is just missing at the moment.
“You can’t take him out because who do you replace him with?” pondered Cooper, who has seen the Stockton-born player go 11 matches without a goal this term.
“You can’t replace his energy levels and his runs.”
Striker Steve Howard and midfielder Paul Murray are set to be rested.
“We want to do well in every competition and the cups are important,” said Cooper. “I will put out the strongest team I can. This is a chance to get that win on board and make it through to the next round.”