Hartlepool United must get season up and running against Dagenham & Redbridge

WANTS IMPROVEMENT: Hartlepool United manager Colin Cooper. Picture by FRANK REID
WANTS IMPROVEMENT: Hartlepool United manager Colin Cooper. Picture by FRANK REID

COLIN Cooper is calling on his Hartlepool United team to get their season “off and running” tonight.

Pointless Pools take on bottom-placed Dagenham & Redbridge at Victoria Park (kick-off 7.45pm).

The Sky Bet League Two clash is between the bottom teams in the division after two rounds of matches.

Pools, 23rd in the table, have been beaten by Stevenage away 1-0 and Bury at home 2-0, while the Daggers have been on the wrong end of a 3-0 defeat to Morecambe and 2-1 loss to Burton Albion.

Both sides, therefore, are looking to get off the mark tonight.

Cooper wants to see an improvement from his players, who also suffered a heavy 6-2 defeat to Port Vale in the Capital One Cup.

The Pools manager doesn’t believe he needs to “lift” his squad for their latest challenge though, he just wants to see them do better and kick-start the season.

Cooper added: “It’s not about lifting the players – I hope not.

“I just ask them to be honest with themselves and to try to improve and there’s more to come.

“Saturday was better than last Tuesday but still not good enough.

“We keep pushing away and I say bring on Tuesday. Does our season start then? We hope so.

“We work on Monday for the rewards on Tuesday and that is our next challenge.

“We work hard and I said to the players try to be better at what you did – both good and bad.

“They need to bring everything they can on Tuesday to see if we can get our season off and running.

“I would have fancied us to get a first point [against Bury] if we hadn’t conceded the second but it didn’t happen, so we crack on for Tuesday.

“Let’s find out who has a bit about them and roll it out for Dagenham.”

Tonight presents another tough challenge against a side that has brought in a dozen players this summer - including veteran striker Jamie Cureton who has already scored twice for them.

Other new faces include goalkeepers Mark Cousins and Liam O’Brien, defenders Damian Batt, Nathan Green and Matt Partridge and midfielders Ashley Hemmings, Joss Labadie, George Porter and Frankie Raymond.

Last year the Daggers finished an impressive 9th in Sky Bet League Two, while Pools were 10 places further down the league in 19th.

Wayne Burnett’s side shared 12 goals with Brentford in their Capital One Cup first round match.

The game finished 6-6 - the joint highest scoring League Cup tie in history - before Brentford won on penalties.

Cooper said: “Dagenham scored six and conceded six last Tuesday night, and we had the same scenario in terms of goals conceded but we were a little better on Saturday.

“All you can do is go back to work and work on shape and ways of countering the opponents.

“That’s all we can do, regroup and train hard.”

The Pools manager knows his side will certainly have to defend better tonight if they are to get anything from the game.

Against Port Vale, Pools were all over the place defensively, while both goals were also avoidable on Saturday - Matthew Bates’ error in the second-half letting Danny Rose in to seal the 2-0 win.

“The goals we conceded the other night [at Port Vale] were disappointing and again [on Saturday],” said Cooper.

“First is a movement off a shoulder, the second is Matthew [Bates] trying to keep possession, but an individual mistake.

“Bury’s first goal was similar to the last at Port Vale where a ball comes in over a defender’s shoulder, leaving the goalkeeper open.

“It’s defending – what’s your full-back doing with conversation and cover?

“We will look at it again.”

Pools (likely): Flinders, Duckworth, Bates (C), Austin, Holden, Brobbel, Miller, Walker, Franks, James, Harewood.

Subs (from): Dixon, Collins, Woods, Parnaby, Hawkins, Richards, Smith, Compton.