STEVE Howard is a relieved man.
Battered and bruised having been used as the focal point for the majority of Pools’ attacks this season, the striker was spared such a rigorous afternoon at Brentford last weekend.
Now under the care of Micky Barron, Pools were instructed to use their targetman as a decoy, instead dropping balls in behind the opposition backline for Tony Sweeney to latch on to.
It was a ploy which worked and Barron’s boys were good value for their 2-2 draw.
And Howard admits he has no issue with being used as a distraction tactic.
“It was much better last week,” he told SportMail ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup First Round tie at Chesterfield.
“We tried to get Sweens in the game more and I took up positions which allowed that, and it worked.
“I had a word with Micky and I said, ‘listen, I’m getting beat up every game, I can’t get out of bed in the morning’.
“He said that we’ll try something different and it helped me.”
Howard concedes that the gruelling League One schedule and physical nature of the division have proved testing so far this term, and that is why he was glad of this week’s free period.
“I wasn’t playing that much at Leicester last season so to come to this, where it’s Saturday-Tuesday all the time, the physical side has taken its toll,” he said.
“It’s been nice to have this free week – it’s exactly what I needed.
“I feel good now and I’m looking forward to tomorrow feeling a bit fresher and fitter than I have done recently.”
He went on: “The cup could be a bit of a distraction for us.
“It’s the best cup competition in the world and we want to be in it.
“I’ve had some big games in the FA Cup – one at Newcastle, one at Liverpool, and I’ve always enjoyed playing in it.
“That’s got to be the aim again, get through to that third round and you never know.”