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Can Hartlepool United fight on two fronts as FA Cup path starts at South Shields

Jack Munns scores against Eastleigh.  Picture: TOM BANKS
Jack Munns scores against Eastleigh. Picture: TOM BANKS

Hartlepool United have found their feet in the National League – now it’s time to take the first steps in the FA Cup.

In-form forward Jack Munns admits Pools would have preferred to have had a league fixture this weekend, but he says they will relish the fourth qualifying round tie at South Shields (kick-off 3pm).

We had a sloppy start [to the season] .. but we have shown great character to turn it around

JACK MUNNS

Pools have lost just once in the last nine games to move out of the National League relegation zone and to within two points of the play-offs.

Munns, one of the chief architects of last week’s win at Solihull Moors, says Pools will look to carry on their good touch at Mariners Park.

“When you have the momentum we have, I just think you want to keep playing,” said the forward.

“We’ve only lost one out of nine, so we’re on a bit of a run, so, in this instance, you want games coming thick and fast, especially in the league

“We have the FA Cup now, which is not ideal – we’d like to be keeping the winning mentality going in the league.

“But we’ll be going to South Shields with a winning mindset.”

Of course, returning to the Football League is the priority for Pools following relegation last May.

Promotion is not everything to Pools – it’s the only thing.

However, the Emirates-sponsored FA Cup provides the chance to keep the momentum going and get a glamour tie further down the line.

“It’s a great competition and you want to go as far as you can,” Munns told SportMail.

“If we win a few games then we could draw one of the big clubs.

“It would be a great experience for the lads and fantastic exposure for the club.

“We’ll be looking to go to Shields and win and go as far as we can in this massive competition.”

Munns could be in line for his first start since August tomorrow.

After finding himself out of the starting XI following the home defeat by Fylde, the gifted 23-year-old has left the bench to good effect for three of the last four games.

The former promotion winner, with Cheltenham, scored with his left foot from the edge of the box against Eastleigh last month and then impressed last midweek in the dramatic last-gasp victory over Barrow.

Better was to come last Saturday, when he was instrumental in the victory over Moors.

He was brought on at half-time and instantly teed up Rhys Oates for the first goal and then, in the final minute, he flighted in the free-kick which led to Jonathan Franks snatching the points at the end.

“We had a sloppy start [to the season], we all know that, “ said the crafty Cockney.

“But we have shown great character to turn it around.

“We’ve had a last-minute winner last week with Woodsy and again last Saturday through Franksy.

“In the last nine games, we’ve shown great character to turn things around.

“It shows that we’ll go all the way to the end, whether it goes our way or not.

“That’s huge in this league. Every point is massive and going to places like Solihull and getting three points will be the difference between winning it and not.

“To win like we did was brilliant, but it’s the three points that matters.

“The league table is so tight that the difference between a draw and a win is massive.

“We need to keep on getting those three points.

“Places like Solihull are difficult places to go – there will be a lot of team who go there and don’t get three points.”

Munns has given boss Craig Harrison a selection headache tomorrow on South Tyneside.

Manager Craig Harrison has often favoured a front three and last week began with James Thorne as the middle man, with Devante Rodney on the right and Franks on the left.

But Pools looked more effective with Oates as the man up top, with summer signing Munns in just behind him.

It was a formula which worked a trea,t with Munns showing some nice creativity and not just for the goals.

Harrison this week praised the diminutive forward for his “guile” and the manager may well plump for that tomorrow.

“All I can do is keep posing a problem for the gaffer,” he added.