HIGH TIME – Hartlepool Utd must start mega-month March with a win over Torquay Utd to maintain push for play-offs

Andy Monkhouse celebrates his goal against Dagenham and Redbridge. Picture by FRANK REID
Andy Monkhouse celebrates his goal against Dagenham and Redbridge. Picture by FRANK REID

HARTLEPOOL United finished February on a low note – now they must start March on a high.

That was the message today from Colin Cooper on the eve of the vital League Two clash with Torquay United at Victoria Park (kick-off 3pm).

Pools go into the visit of the Gulls just seven points off the division’s top seven.

With a bumper seven matches in March and the games starting to slowly dwindle in number, they cannot afford to drop points against a side struggling for their Football League existence – just as they did at Northampton last weekend.

Defeat at Sixfields did not unduly damage their chances, nor did the midweek results, though Plymouth Argyle’s stunning 4-0 win at Fleetwood moved them down a position to 10th.

“You don’t get into the higher echelons thanks to other people doing favours for you,” said Cooper, who looks set to restore Andy Monkhouse to the team tomorrow.

“You have to win your own matches.

“February, on the whole, was good but it finished on a bit of a damp squib but we must now start March on a high in front of our own fans.

“If we get back to what we are good at we can – look at Plymouth and what they did in midweek – we can keep in the hunt and hopefully

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it gets us up towards Southend.

“Perform like we did at Northampton and we won’t be up there, we’ll end up somewhere around where we are now.

“But we will be positive and see where the 13 games takes us.”

Cooper says Pools felt deflated after the 2-0 defeat at Sixfields but says the mood is starting to build again.

“We were all flat and very disappointed last weekend,” he admitted.

“The result and the issue with Michael affected us, but it came at the end of a long week.

“Maybe they were sick of the sight of each other and of me, so I gave them an extra day off on Monday,

“We had a good session on Tuesday, then same again Thursday and we’ll finish off the match preparation today to make sure when we leave the training ground we are ready, knowing everything is in place.

“I have watched the Northampton game back, but we have drawn a line in the sand and we must step over it and make sure we are ready for Torquay.

“February was a good month with two wins and two draws and we looked good against teams who had started the day above us in the table.

“The five games after them, including Northampton, are all against teams at the bottom.

“It presents us with opportunities.

“One has been missed, but we’ve dusted ourselves down and we’ll go again.”

Cooper will make at least one enforced change tomorrow with Jordan Richards starting at right-back in the place of the luckless Michael Duckworth.

Further upfield, he must decide who to replace Luke Williams with, while Monkhouse may well return after being left out in favour of Jack Barmby.

Barmby is likely to come into his thoughts as the man to take the void vacated by Williams, while James Poole is another option.

Poole had been outstanding in the Pools ‘revival’ in the autumn, proving an excellent link between the frontline and midfield.

It is a tricky choice for Cooper and assistant Craig Hignett when they sit down to pencil in their team this afternoon.

Pools (possible): Flinders, Richards, Collins, Burgess, Holden, Barmby, Walton, Walker, Monkhouse, Harewood, James. Subs (from): Rafferty, Sweeney, Compton, Poole, Rodney, Franks, Hawkins, Jones.