NEALE Cooper had two four-letter words on his mind when he looked ahead tomorrow’s League One northern showdown with Carlisle at Victoria Park (kick-off 3pm).
But Hartlepool United’s first-team coach was not turning the air blue.
The words in question were “tidy” and “wide”.
Cooper was delighted to see Pools get off the mark last Saturday with their first win of the league programme as well as the first goals.
But he wants to see his side “tidy up” as well as improving their play from the outside areas and keeping Carlisle’s widemen, ex-Pools left-back Matty Robson and Jon-Paul McGovern.
“It’s early days but I think there is still a lot of room for improvement in certain areas,” he said.
“We were a bit careless, giving the ball away a couple of times last week which we could have got punished for.
“We have got to stop crosses quicker than we do.
“It needs hard work to do it but we have got to close down teams better, especially from the wider areas.
“We’ve got to get closer to those boys and stop getting crosses coming in to our box.
“We need to tidy up the slack parts and we will be OK.”
Robson and McGovern carry much of the Carlisle attacking threat, as Cooper acknowledges.
He gave Robson his chance as a youngster during his first spell at Victoria Park and he is also a fan of McGovern, who Pools fans will remember from the 2005 Play-off final at Cardiff.
“We’ve had good reports about Matty of late and I’ve always liked the lad McGovern wide right,” said Cooper.
“They have experience up front in Danny Cadamarteri and they have signed Jake Jervis on loan from Birmingham.
“Carlisle will be a handful but hopefully our defence will deal with that.”
Cooper wants to see more polish and precision from his ball players, skilful operators like Andy Monkhouse and Jon Franks, plus full-backs Evan Horwood and Neil Austin, especially their service to Steve Howard. The first-team coach admitted that the seasoned campaigner has been affected by a knee injury but will be fit for tomorrow’s match.
“Stevie has had a slight problem with his knee but he’s on a course of three injections and he has trained well,” Cooper told SportMail.
“Jonny will be a big player for us and Andy was excellent last week.
“Our play in those wide areas will be important.
“If they can get the delivery in and the full-backs can support them and we can get the right balls in to Stevie than that is a big part of our game
“I don’t just mean lumping balls up the park, because every team we play against are putting two defenders on him, one in front, one behind to try to counter his threat.
“It’s hard but because of that our other lads can benefit from that.
“If an extra player is taken out of the game to try to take care of him then we should look to make the most of it.
“The most important thing for everyone linked to the club last week was the fact we won the game.
“At the end of the day we did that, we scored and we kept a clean sheet but I know there is room for improvement.
“It will be a hard game but we are all looking forward to it and we will do our utmost to win at home.”