MARLON Harewood is off the mark – now Colin Cooper wants the striker to fire Hartlepool United towards the play-offs.
After eight starts without a goal, the 34-year-old found the net for the first time in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Torquay United.
Cooper was thrilled, along with 3,426 fans, when Harewood ran strongly from a great Luke James ball before nutmegging Gulls keeper Michael Poke.
The manager now wants Harewood to kick on in the final 12 matches of the season.
Pools moved up to ninth in the Sky Bet League Two table and are edging closer to Southend United, who occupy the last play-off spot.
“We all have to be upbeat now,” said Cooper.
“Look at the results and we are five points off the top seven and that’s only one defeat in six for us.
“We hope that’s the first of many for Marlon. If I’m coming off the pitch 10 minutes from time to that kind of ovation it’s going to make me feel good.
“One or two people have questioned what he is giving us so far, longer term he will give us an awful lot.
“It has taken a bit of time coming because he hadn’t played many games before he joined us.
“But I believe he’ll have a big impact on what happens at the end of the season.
“We had a nice sit down on Friday and I reminded him of the conversation we had about bringing him here.
“He’s great with the lads but I don’t want him in the role he’d had at Bristol City [where he was a mentor to the young strikers].
“I want him fit, strong, aggressive.
“I want him like the Marlon Harewood I played against in the FA Cup semi-final when I was playing for Middlesbrough.
“Then, he was an angry man and putting defenders under pressure.
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“He did that and more on Saturday and the reward is the goal.
“The most pleasing thing is he has got off the mark.
“Each week he’s been saying he wants to get a goal for me – I want him to get a goal for himself.
“And the response he got as he comes off the pitch was great.
“The fans want someone and something to cling onto. They want the next hero.”
Harewood’s goal followed on from a good opener from Jack Barmby and a headed second from James.
It finally put to bed the challenge of a very game and attack-minded Torquay.
Perhaps, such has been the wait for a goal, there seemed a point of Harewood’s run towards the away box that he woulld try to square the ball to Barmby.
But Cooper was delighted to see the striker’s instinct kick in.
“As soon as he was clear, I knew he would score,” said the 47-year-old.
“He’s broken free and was in on goal - as a striker you think he will head for goal and slot it in.
“But he can see Jack Barmby coming up in support and it makes him think of the best option.
“I think the defender gets back and cuts off that option so there were no qualms for Marlon, he put it away nicely – thats the extra bit of quality he has.”