Hartlepool United striker ‘desperate’ for first team opportunity after scoring five in friendly

It’s been a frustrating season for Mark Cullen at Hartlepool United so far.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 6:00 am

The striker missed the majority of pre-season with a hamstring injury and has made just one start for the club in the Papa John’s Trophy.

Cullen’s opportunities as a substitute have also been scarce. He came off the bench during the opening day win over Crawley Town but hasn’t been seen in League Two action since.

He came close to getting on the pitch against Exeter City last weekend before manager Dave Challinor opted to keep him on the bench.

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Mark Cullen in action against Carlisle United (photo: Frank Reid).

But with Pools currently struggling for goals from their strikers, why is their only recognised striker with any sort of goalscoring reputation in the Football League not getting a sniff when it comes to first team action?

“With Culls, it's about looking about where he is and physical stuff,” Challinor told The Mail.

“I've had a very open conversation with him around where he's at and where he feels he's at and what is the best way to get him closer. Whether that's him going out and playing some games for a month then we'll look at that.

"It’s been tough for Culls because he obviously missed part of pre-season and is behind where other lads potentially were.”

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A recent five goal haul against Durham University and some promising displays in training have helped thrust Cullen into the first team picture again.

“He scored five goals and all of a sudden, we’re questioning whether we can afford to let him out [on loan],” Challinor added. "He was going to come on during Saturday’s game but we decided against it so he’ll be disappointed with that because he’s desperate to get on the pitch.

"Whether his opportunity comes on Saturday [at Stevenage] or Tuesday [against Morecambe in the Papa John’s Trophy] then he needs to take it.

"In the meantime, he just needs to keep performing how he has in training because every day is an opportunity to impress us and show us what he can do.

"Especially as a forward player, if you’re banging in goals left, right and centre in training then everyone has to open their eyes and go, maybe he’s somebody who deserves a run in the team and is the answer to the questions we’re looking for.”

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