Joe Ramage: Away trips to Sheffield Wednesday and Lincoln City are tough tests for Hartlepool United but Papa John's Trophy and FA Cup provide welcome break from League Two action

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
On the surface of it, Antony Sweeney may have been conflicted about Hartlepool United’s cup exertions this week. But deep down it’s a welcome break for the Pools interim boss.

Sweeney watched on as his side fell to their fifth straight defeat in League Two at Port Vale on Saturday with Pools’ fragilities in both boxes on display again as they were forced to come away form the Potteries empty handed despite a satisfactory performance.

The result left Pools 17th in the League Two table, eight points above the dotted line, with concerns about the sudden drop in form growing.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And while Sweeney was right to suggest a break from League Two action prevents his side the opportunity to arrest their slump in form, the break does give all parties the opportunity to take stock of the last month at the Suit Direct Stadium.

Antony Sweeney was conflicted on the cup competitions for Hartlepool United (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)Antony Sweeney was conflicted on the cup competitions for Hartlepool United (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)
Antony Sweeney was conflicted on the cup competitions for Hartlepool United (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

The search for Dave Challinor’s replacement continues to rumble on in the background, but in the here and now, Sweeney has the opportunity once more on Saturday, should he remain in charge, to get more of a flavour of his squad.

A trip to Sheffield Wednesday and Lincoln City in the space of three days would be difficult for most Football League clubs, let alone a one in difficult form.

But what these two fixtures have provided is almost a free hit for Sweeney and Pools.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The opportunity to go out and test themselves against higher calibre opposition and, particularly in the Owls’ case on Wednesday, the opportunity to play in one of football's more traditional stadiums.

Of course Pools will have come into this week wanting to win both ties.

No matter what level you compete at, or where on the list of priorities the competition falls, professional players want to win every game.

The positive of this week is that any defeat Pools suffer is not really the end of the world.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Lose a sixth straight League Two fixture against Rochdale at the Suit Direct Stadium next week however and those alarm bells will only get louder.

Saturday’s trip to Lincoln is likely to see more squad rotation given the significance of that game with Rochdale lurking next midweek, but Pools have already caused one upset in the FA Cup in recent weeks, so why not two?

While advancing in these competitions creates a taxing schedule, particularly at this time of the season when league fixtures come thick and fast, these are games that can perhaps provide that little boost to morale - something Pools will take any advantage of at the moment.

The win over Wycombe in the first round of the FA Cup may not have led to a follow up result in the league against Newport County or Forest Green Rovers, but the opportunity to at least perform, and perform well, against higher level opposition creates a platform to build on.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Not only that, strong showings against sides like Sheffield Wednesday and Lincoln give supporters belief that the league form can turn around.

It’s all about the small gains for Pools at the moment as they ride out this rocky period and the cup competitions are an opportunity to do just that.

A message from the Football Clubs Editor

Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Hartlepool United coverage 365 days a year.

This depth of coverage costs, so to help us maintain the high-quality reporting that you are used to, please consider taking out a subscription to our new sports-only package here.

Your support is much appreciated. Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor.