Monkhouse back in Hartlepool Utd side to face Portsmouth

Andy Monkhouse in action against Northampton Town. Picture by FRANK REID
Andy Monkhouse in action against Northampton Town. Picture by FRANK REID

ANDY Monkhouse will return to the Hartlepool United starting XI tomorrow.

But boss Colin Cooper is in a dilemma whether to make further changes to his Pools side for the visit of Portsmouth.

Pools may look a little out of sorts after a second disappointing away defeat on the spin, 1-0 at Bury on Tuesday night.

But that is small beer compared to Pompey who have lost five in a row (three in Sky Bet League Two plus knock-out defeats in the FA Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy).

Cooper will recall Monkhouse in place of Jonathan Franks after the versatile attacker missed the trip to Gigg Lane through a one-match ban.

But the boss may opt to leave three of his principal challengers for a starting XI place, Jordan Richards, Antony Sweeney and Brad Walker, on the bench against a Pompey side managed by caretaker Andy Awford and assisted by Alan McLoughlin.

“The way we play the game, we have to be mindful that we definitely missed the outlet we have in Andy Monkhouse,” said Cooper.

“We missed that on Tuesday night and that is no disrespect to Franksy who came in and worked his socks off for the team.

“Andy will be keen to get back in to the side.

“Then we have to think of what’s the best solution to give Portsmouth problems.

“We will be analysing Portsmouth closely, their formation, shape, personnel and trying to read what Andy and Alan will be looking to do and then picking a team accordingly.”

Cooper maintains his “players are working their socks off” which has been obvious.

There has been a dip in performances, but only away from home, so he may decide to keep the faith with his regulars.

“Should we have freshened it up for Bury? Should we freshen it up at the weekend?” said Cooper.

“Those are questions I’ve asked myself and those thoughts are still running through my mind.”

Whoever Cooper sends out through the tunnel at 2.55pm he will be looking for an improvement from Tuesday night’s display at Bury.

The game was a bit of a stinker against a side with a basic approach and Pools, as a consequence, struggled to get out of first gear.

Cooper, to his credit, has looked to make no excuses.

“We had that real positive surge [from October onwards] which has given us the chance to stay on the shirt tails of the clubs in the top part of the table,” he said.

“What we need to do is find to a level of consistency.

“I do not like making excuses about pitches or surroundings or anything like that.

“I just think that we got sucked into trying to do what Bury were doing.

“I have honest talks with the players – I don’t make excuses and I don’t want them to either.

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“I just felt that the standards we have set, both in and out of possession, were not as high as they have been.

“But it’s happened and we have to crack on.

“There are going to be peaks and troughs, it [winning] can’t happen all the time but as long as we keep going in the right direction.

“It’s not going to be perfect but we will try to keep that level of improvement going.”

Pools (probable): Flinders, Duckworth, Burgess, Baldwin, Austin, Compton, Walton, Dolan, Monkhouse, Poole, James. Subs: Rafferty, Richards, Collins, Franks, Walker, Sweeney, Rodney.

Portsmouth (probable): Carson, Devera, Whatmough, Bradley, Potts, Wallace, Cooper, Ertl, Barcham, Bird, Connolly.