HARTLEPOOL United tomorrow chase that Victoria Park collector’s item – a hat-trick of home wins when they tackle in-form Dagenham & Redbridge.
And they chase it with words of warning from Colin Cooper: Don’t switch off.
Cooper’s side has been in excellent form – last Saturday’s defeat at Scunthorpe was their first loss after five straight wins and the first time in 12 games they had failed to find the opposition net.
After back-to-back wins at the Vic against Plymouth and Wimbledon, the hosts will start as marginal favourites, something which has not been a common occurrence in recent seasons (kick-off 3pm).
But Cooper has pointed out that the points must be earned and will not just be handed out on a plate because of their stunning sequence of results.
“We are trying very hard, we’re tying to put a team and shape together that gives the players the opportunity to express themselves,” he said.
“And, to a man, everyone is putting their bodies on the line for Pools at the moment
“But I have to also say that we’re not good enough to win when we are switched off.
“We can compete with anyone in this league.
“We can have an off-day when we may not be sparkling but we still need to be spot on wth our shape, attitude, discipline.
“If we have a good day shape, attitude and discipline-wise then we have players with the ability to create us chances to win.
“It’s the two combined which have given us the chance in October to progress up the table.
“But if we think we can just turn up [and win] then we’ll be in for a short, sharp, shock.”
Spectacular goals – and lots of them – have characterised the awesome form in October.
But Pools’ success has been built on a great defensive effort.
Sam Winnall’s winner for Scunthorpe last Saturday was the first goal Pools had conceded in open play since Oxford’s second goal in a 3-1 home defeat on September 28.
“I remember the comments from people when I was walking off against Oxford after we’d conceded a late third goal,” said Cooper, who will tomorrow send out his excellent regular back four of Michael Duckworth, Jack Baldwin, Christian Burgess and skipper Neil Austin tomorrow.
“It was disappointing for me, disappointing for the players.
“Now, any goal that goes in we are disappointed with and I think that’s a good sign.
“Go back to last week – Christian was devastated to concede one goal.
“Sometimes we have to defend our box, make blocks, like we did against Plymouth.
“We have a good goalkeeper and at the moment our back four look fairly solid, not perfect and there are things we need to work on.
“The players in front of them are working very hard and, obviously in Luke, we have someone who will work tirelessly to put the opposition defenders under pressure.
“But if that work rate is not there I’m not sure we are good enough to give less than 100 per cent.
“Once you start thinking you are good enough to put 75 per cent of the effort in and still think you’ll be good enough to win we are no where near that stage.
“We want our lads to have a state of feeling devastated when we concede a goal, but on the other side of the coin, everyone being delighted whoever scores for us.
“I think that’s where we are at the moment.”
With winger Jack Compton serving the final game of his three-match ban, Cooper is set to name an unchanged line-up for the third time in a row.
Pools (probable): Flinders, Duckworth, Baldwin, Burgess, Austin (capt), Franks, Walton, Dolan, Monkhouse, Poole, James. Subs: Rafferty, Richards, Holden, Collins, Sweeney, Walker, Rodney.
Dagenham & Redbridge (probable): Lewington, Hoyte, Connors, Howell, Doe, Saah, Ogogo, Bingham, Murphy, Elito, Hines. Subs: Ilesanmi, Scott, Obafemi, D