Hartlepool United captain Ryan Donaldson looks ahead to another long FA Cup trip to League Two side Exeter City in the second round

Despite raising their performances in recent weeks, Hartlepool United will have to raise their standards once again when they face Exeter City on Sunday, according to captain Ryan Donaldson.

Thursday, 28th November 2019, 5:08 pm
Ryan Donaldson of Hartlepool United    during the Vanarama National League match between Ebbsfleet United and Hartlepool United at The Cufflink Stadium, Northfleet on Saturday 16th November 2019. (Credit: Leila Coker | MI News)
Ryan Donaldson of Hartlepool United during the Vanarama National League match between Ebbsfleet United and Hartlepool United at The Cufflink Stadium, Northfleet on Saturday 16th November 2019. (Credit: Leila Coker | MI News)

After twice making the mammoth journey down to Yeovil Town in the first round, Pools now make the even longer trip to face League Two opposition in Exeter as they look to book their place in the third round for the first time since 2016.

“It’s another long one,” Donaldson said.

“I’m a bit disappointed Cambridge didn’t win because it would have been nice to go back down there.

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“Exeter are a good side who are right up there in League Two.

“It’ll be a good game though and a good chance for us to test ourselves and the potential prize is massive if you win that you’re in the third round.

“The top half of our league and bottom half of League Two are pretty much level and could be a division in itself in my opinion, but I think the top seven in League Two are way above what is in this league.

“There are some good teams in League Two who could compete in League One even and I think Exeter are one of them.

“You can say it’s only one division but we’re here thinking we should be in League Two while they’re probably thinking they should be in League One.

“It’ll be good and a nice opportunity to test ourselves against a side whose position we want to be in over the next couple of years.”

*Graham Potter will be boosted by the return of two key players for Brighton's trip to Premier League leaders Liverpool tomorrow.

Leicester secured a 2-0 win at the Amex Stadium last weekend, with Seagulls captain Lewis Dunk missing the fixture after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season earlier in the month.

The centre-back will return for the clash against the Reds and talented young forward Aaron Connolly should feature too.

A groin injury had sidelined the Republic of Ireland striker, but the 19-year-old is fit again. Brighton are set to be without Solly March though.

and although Brazilian Bernardo featured for the Under-23s on Wednesday, he is still lacking match-fitness.

Potter added: "Aaron Connolly is back in the squad and training now too.

"We've got Solly March who has a bit of tightness in his groin so he's doubtful at the moment for the weekend.

"Bernardo got his first 45 minutes last night but Saturday will come a bit too soon."

Former Ostersund manager Potter, along with his backroom staff, has signed a new contract which will run until the end of the 2024-25 campaign.

He only took over from Chris Hughton in the summer but has led Brighton to fine victories over Everton and Tottenham this season.

While happy, the 44-year-old knows there is a long way to go with the club five points above the bottom three and in 12th position after 13 games.

Potter said: "We've still got a lot to do and from my perspective it's a little bit strange because we haven't done anything.

"I'm not one of those people that feels that secure by the length of the contract. I know the business we're in.

"It's a fantastic gesture and symbol and signal from the club that they believe in the potential we're showing, so we're delighted."