COLIN Cooper today called on his Hartlepool United side to take advantage of a “big opportunity” at Accrington Stanley.
Pools, beaten 2-1 at Wycombe Wanderers at the weekend, travel to Lancashire tonight looking to close the gap on the play-offs.
Cooper – who will be selecting from the same squad of players – said the Sky Bet League Two match against third-bottom Stanley is another chance for 10th-placed Pools to stake a claim for the top seven.
Defeat at Adams Park on Saturday saw Pools drop one place but they didn’t lose any ground after Plymouth Argyle and Southend United also lost.
So they remain five-points adrift ahead of the match at the Crown Ground (kick-off 7.45pm).
The manner of the weekend defeat was a huge frustration for Cooper & Co though after Pools had gone into the break leading 1-0 thanks to Jack Barmby’s third Pools goal.
However, Dean Morgan and Matt McClure took advantage of sloppy defensive play from Pools to ensure three points for the Chairboys.
Cooper said the focus has quickly shifted to tonight’s match and says his side are going to have to work hard to get anything, especially given the confidence in Accrington after their 3-1 win over Chesterfield.
“Every game presents you with an opportunity,” he said.
“We have another opportunity to bridge the gap and if we don’t take that then that is one game less.
“If we are good enough to bridge the gap to get to the play-offs then good, but if
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we are not then there will be reasons behind that.
“Maybe the little faults that we may have in us as a team, as a group, that will be the difference between getting in there and cementing a place and not getting there.
“We are more than good enough but it seems that when we have a genuine opportunity we haven’t been able to take it.
“When we have been chasing and we get our tails up and we are feeling good we have clawed the distance back.
“But we have never taken the big opportunity when it has come along.
“That is all Saturday was - another opportunity.
“Had we bridged the gap then great, but we didn’t, so what can you do?
“We turn up to Accrington and try to give them a good game.
“They are another team who are trying to string some results together to get themselves into a safe and comfortable place.
“It won’t be easy - I have been to Accrington before.
“It is a place that if you get anything then you have earned it.”
Cooper will be hoping for a repeat of the September fixture between the two sides, which ended 2-1 to Pools, with Andy Monkhouse and Jonathan Franks netting to secure the first league win of the season.
Full-back Neil Austin is still continuing his recovery from a toe injury, which is continuing to cause him problems, and again misses out.
Michael Duckworth is also set to remain sidelined as he continues his comeback from soft tissue damage to his left leg, sustained in the first few minutes of the Northampton in February.
Aside from those two, Cooper has no new injury concerns just the usual “bumps and bruises” following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Adams Park.
Cooper added: “We have a few bumps and bruises but I would expect that from a competitive fixture.
“We will assess everybody and go to Accrington and try to give them a good game.”
Accrington, meanwhile, go into the match on a high after a 3-1 win over table-topping Chesterfield at the weekend, a result which has seen them pull six points away from the relegation zone.
Dangerman Lee Molyneux hit a first-half hat-trick for 10-man Accrington and the result means Stanley are only five points off 10th-placed Pools with a game in hand in League Two.
Former Southampton and Blackburn striker James Beattie, 36, is their manager and his assistant is former Pools midfielder Paul Stephenson, who has also coached at Norwich City and was a member of Lee Clark’s staff at Huddersfield Town.
Pools (likely): Flinders, Richards, Collins, Burgess, Holden, Walton, Walker, Monkhouse, Barmby, James, Harewood.
Subs: Rafferty, Hawkins, Sweeney, Franks, Compton, Poole, Rodney.
Accrington: Bettinelli, Buxton, Wilson, Joyce, Atkinson, Aldred, Winnard, Hatfield, Webber, Gray, Molyneux.
Subs: Naismith, Windass, Liddle, Dawber, Odejayi, Hazeldine, Bowerman.