Young Richards hailed for big Hartlepool United progress

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WEARSIDER Jordan Richards and fellow youth team graduate Darren Holden have been praised by their Hartlepool United boss for the way they have stepped up this season, writes RICHARD MENNEAR.

But manager Colin Cooper believes there is still “a lot more to come” from the 20-year-olds who have been enjoying a run in the Pools side following injuries to regulars Neil Austin and Michael Duckworth.

Holden has impressed at left-back, while Sunderland-born Richards has made an impact at right-back for Pools in their push for a League Two play-off place.

The pair have more than filled a void, impressing with their willingness to get forward and ability to dig in when needed defensively – playing their part in a superb run of five successive clean sheets at home.

If selected in tomorrow night’s trip to Oxford United, they will both make their 20th appearance of the season, the most either have ever played in one campaign.

And their efforts have not gone unnoticed by their manager, who insists they can still improve further.

“They have both stepped into the breach,” said Cooper.

“They are two young lads that ever since I came into the club I liked them both.

“Darren stands out because of his features and the big 22 on his back but I think there is more in the locker from Darren.

“Jordan is a terrific young professional, who will get better with a bit more teaching.

“He has probably been disappointed that Michael (Duckworth) has come in and had such an impact.

“That has maybe knocked him a wee bit but he has got his head on it now and is doing smashing. I genuinely believe there is a lot more to come from them both.”

Pools are five points adrift of the play-offs, but have been rocked by confirmation that winger Andy Monkhouse has been ruled out for at least four weeks.

The experienced 33-year-old suffered the grade two strain in his left hamstring just 15 minutes into last Saturday’s 4-0 win over Bristol Rovers.

Cooper said: “It’s disappointing news because Andy has played a lot of games for us this season in a few different positions as well.

“The positive is that Jack Compton came off the bench and had an impact in the game against Bristol Rovers and he looked bright.

“It’s up to Jack now to try and finish the season in the kind of form he started it, and if he can do that then we will all benefit.

“It presents an opportunity for someone, if not Jack then one of the other players who think they can have an impact in that position.”