COLIN Cooper is looking for Hartlepool United to pass a test of character this week.
Cooper would love to see his side pick up six points on the road this week – with the first three at Northampton Town tonight.
Pools travel south to the Sixfields Stadium in Sky Bet League Two (kick-off 7.45pm) before the squad faces an even longer trip south later in the week, to play Plymouth Argyle.
Cooper wants to see his side prove they are capable of picking up results and not just be hard to beat.
Northampton – who escaped from relegation in the final weeks of last season – are currently ninth in League Two with 11 points from their opening seven matches.
They are managed by Chris Wilder, whose task last year was to keep them in the Football League when he joined from Oxford United.
Cooper, whose Pools side were beaten 2-0 in the corresponding fixture in February, knows this time around expectations have been raised.
“When Chris [Wilder] went to Northampton last season he was there to keep them in the League,” said Cooper.
“It will have changed from when we played there last year, when all they did was put us under a lot of pressure all over the pitch and certainly in our 18-yard box.
“It worked for them.
“After that game we were all really disappointed how the game went.
l TURN to Page 37
“Chris’s brief will be a lot different now and we have a challenge to compete.
“We have to be the way we have been the last two games, be resolute and not give a lot of opportunities away and find a way to unlock their defence and create chances.
“Do we look at something different for Tuesday?
“We can look and decide.”
Cooper could bring Marlon Harewood back into the starting line-up in place of Jonathan Franks, who struggled to have an impact in the goalless draw with Tranmere rovers on Saturday.
Michael Woods, who bagged a hat-trick for the reserves last week, is also pushing for a start.
Cooper said the long week on the motorway will be a test for his squad but he expects them to give both Northampton and Plymouth a good game.
“It will be a test of character for the young players,” added Cooper.
“How they rest and recover is important and the older players as well with the long mileage as well as two tough games.
“We’ve a long week ahead and to get out of this one with six points would be fantastic.
“We cannot be happy going away from home and failing to produce a performance or be tough to beat - we can’t accept we can lose 1-0.
“For me, hopefully this last week proves that the group is more than capable of producing results and now the challenge is to go away and build on this.
“The travel is all part of football, rest, recover and prepare for a long week.
“We have a three and a bit hour trip on Tuesday, then a goodness knows how many hours on Friday to Plymouth but let’s get as many as we can on the bus and give Northampton a game.
“Last year we disappointed ourselves, so this time let’s give them a game.”
Despite a good start to the season, Northampton suffered a disappointing 3-2 defeat away to Newport County at the weekend and Wilder could make changes for tonight’s match.
Goalkeeper Matt Duke is ruled out for at least a fortnight with a thigh injury so Scottish Under 21 keeper Jordan Archer will continue in goal.
Kaid Mohamed missed the weekend match with a cut foot but is expected to return, while Wilder has said Lawson D’Ath is pushing for a starting spot after scoring as a sub at Newport.
Pools (likely): Flinders, Richards, Bates (C), Harrison, Austin, Brobbel, Miller, Walker, Compton, Harewood, Wyke.
Subs (from): Barber, Holden, Jones, Collins, Hawkins, Parnaby, Woods, Franks.