COLIN Cooper has praised the added commitment levels and desire of his Hartlepool United players this season.
In recent games, his side, ninth in Sky Bet League Two have beaten fellow play-off chasers Dagenham & Redbridge and Newport County, followed by a gutsy point at Southend United on Tuesday.
Pools were losing 1-0 at the break at Roots Hall but galvanised with Brad Walker’s stunning strike earning Pools a point.
At times the players had to dig deep, with two efforts cleared off the line, and Cooper has praised the commitment levels.
That was epitomised by holding midfielder Simon Walton, who took a crunching kick in the second-half but carried on when it looked like he would have to come off.
Cooper said: “Simon Walton got a kick and I was going to change it and bring on Michael Duckworth and also throw Sweens [Antony Sweeney] on and let him play off Luke [James] for the last five minutes.
“But we never even got to make the substitutions.
“Simon looked over at me on three or four occasions and he was shaking his head saying: ‘No, I don’t want to come off.’
“I’m not waxing lyrical about me and Higgy but I am saying that when we first came into the club [last summer], I’m not sure whether that level of commitment was
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“It is definitely there now and we have to realise that and build on it.”
It was an entertaining and breathless encounter at Roots Hall, despite the wet and muddy conditions.
Both sides had chances, with Pools denied what looked like a clear penalty in the first-half, while Southend hit the woodwork and had two efforts cleared off the line.
In the end both sides had to settle for a point following the 1-1 draw.
Cooper said: “The pitch wasn’t great but it was flat and credit to Southend, they played a lot more football than when they came to the Vic earlier in the season.
“Phil Brown has obviously spent a lot of time over the past six or seven months working on that and both of us said at the end that we actually enjoyed the game.”
The Pools gaffer has now called on his players to carry their good form into their third game in eight days – Northampton Town away on Saturday.
Town are currently bottom of League Two and Cooper says his players will be fully focused going into the match.
“I am very proud of the effort that the lads have put in recently,” he said.
“On the back of Saturday’s win over Newport County and Southend we have to go to Northampton and finish the week off in a really positive manner.
“We can’t go there feeling flat and sorry that it is our third game – we are more than capable of going there and getting something.
“It is about giving yourself a chance of coming home with something and then you might end up coming back with everything.”