Hartlepool United caretaker manager Antony Sweeney ready to back into National League action against Barnet as he eyes third straight win

Caretaker manager Antony Sweeney is looking forward to getting back into National League action this weekend.

Friday, 25th October 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Friday, 25th October 2019, 5:45 pm
Hartlepool United caretaker manager Tony Sweeney during the FA Cup match between Hartlepool United and Brackley Town at Victoria Park, Hartlepool on Saturday 19th October 2019. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

Hartlepool United host Barnet at Victoria Park on Saturday in what will be Sweeney’s first league match in charge at Victoria Park.

The 36-year-old will be looking to continue his perfect start to his interim spell having won his opening game 3-0 at Aldershot Town before the side secured their place in the FA Cup first round proper with a 1-0 win at home to Brackley Town.

Sweeney admitted the performance from his side in the game left a lot to be desired but maintained the result was the most important thing.

Hartlepool United and Brackley Town at Victoria Park, Hartlepool on Saturday 19th October 2019. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

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“We put the Brackley game to bed pretty quickly to be honest,” he said.

“We’re not going to play Brackley again this season and won’t come up against that type of team and the FA Cup throws up these games where I’m not reading too much into it.

“I’ve watched Barnet’s first leg against Potters Bar and the highlights of the second leg as well as the full game they played against Woking where they drew 2-2.

“I know exactly what Barnet will bring to the party but I won’t judge them on the FA Cup because I wouldn’t expect Barnet to judge us based on our performance against Brackley.

Hartlepool United caretaker manager Tony Sweeney during the FA Cup match between Hartlepool United and Brackley Town at Victoria Park, Hartlepool on Saturday 19th October 2019. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

“I’m not reading too much into that game. I’m concentrating more on how they’ve played and performed against teams in the National League.

“They’re a good side, they’re expansive, put the balls into the box and have shots at goal. They will cause us problems, there’s no doubt about it but I also think if we perform to our capabilities then we’ll cause them a lot of problems.

“The players aren’t stupid, they know what a good performance is and what it takes to win games more securely than we did last Saturday.”

Pools currently sit 15th in the table, two points behind Barnet, four points off the play-offs and seven ahead of the relegation zone.

A string of wins could lift the club right back in contention to challenge for a top seven spot – but that’s easier said than done.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back into league action,” Sweeney admitted.

“We will be judged primarily on how we perform in the league over anything else.

“We’re still in that position where if you’re negative then we’re not far enough away from the bottom but if you’re a positive person then we’re within striking distance of getting into areas of the league where we believe we should be and can be.

“Sometimes you can concentrate too much on the negative side of things, especially in terms of our performances. But I think some of our emergency defending has been really good, I’d just like there to be less emergency defending and more control in the build-up.

“Now I’ve had the chance to think, you see the positives a bit more and go well when was the last time we scored three goals away from home, when was the last time we kept back to back clean sheets – you’ve got to take the positives while also trying to put the negatives right.

“We’ve performed well in patches but I’d like to see it more sustained throughout the game.

“Maybe a 90 minute performance is asking too much but for large periods I want us to excite a little bit more I suppose and be confident getting into attacking areas and applying pressure.

“We’ve got some good defenders and if we’ve got to go one v one with someone then so be it. But I don’t want to go too gung-ho because teams will cause problems and you can lose a game much more quickly than you can win a game.”

Sweeney has been in caretaker charge for just over a fortnight and is set to keep his place in the dugout for the time being as the club assess their options regarding Craig Hignett’s permanent replacement as manager.

Being thrust into the role has been an intense learning process for the novice manager, who admits he’s barely had a moment’s rest over the past fortnight.

“Technically, I had Wednesday morning off but I decided to put the Barnet game on which took me about two hours to get through with rewinding and stuff like that,” Sweeney continued.

“It’s going to get a little bit more hectic in the next couple of weeks because we’ve got under-19s games coming up that will require two members of staff.

“At the moment there’s me and Gucky [Ian McGuckin] doing both so it’ll get more hectic for us but at the moment we’re coping fine.

“It’s busy and hectic but it’s enjoyable at the same time because it’s something totally different and something that a lot of people would give their right arm to be in the position I am.

“It’s a position where you’re doing the manager’s job but without the full pressure of what a permanent manager would get as well.

“So I’ve learnt loads in two weeks, a lot more than I would as a first team coach over three or four months so from that point of view I’m in a no lose situation.”