COLIN Cooper is looking forward to an “exciting” encounter in tonight’s crunch match at Southend United.
Hartlepool United are currently eighth in Sky Bet League Two, just six points off promotion hopefuls Southend who occupy the last play-off place and Cooper is expecting an entertaining clash at Roots Hall (7.45pm KO).
It comes quick on the heels of Saturday’s hard-fought 3-0 win over Newport County and victory this evening could see Pools close the gap on the top seven to just three points.
In the past two matches, Pools have scored five and conceded none against fellow play-off chasers Dagenham & Redbridge and Newport and confidence is high within the squad ahead of a gruelling week.
After the midweek trip to former Pools defender Phil Brown’s Southend side, there is another long trip south to bottom-side Northampton Town on Saturday.
But Cooper says the focus of his players in the past 48 hours has been on rest and recovery before going again against an Essex side without a win in five matches.
That run includes back-to-back defeats to Mansfield Town and the 3-2 home defeat to Exeter City at the weekend.
Cooper is looking forward to a good game, which has an added bit of spice given the two sides sit side-by-side in the League Two table.
“It will be quite an exciting fixture,” said the 46-year-old.
“Judging by what happened at the weekend, Phil will be
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disappointed as losing from a winning position isn’t easy to take.
“It is a quick turn around this week and our focus has to be on resting, recovering, eating and sleeping between now and the match.
“We have a five-hour coach journey down and then a long-ish day before the kick-off.
“So, we have to try and utilise as many minutes of that as we can to get the rest and recovery into the lads.
“That is the hard ask, you have a really tough game on the Saturday which we won, then the Sunday and the Monday become ultra important for the Tuesday night performance.
“It is all about doing the right things; professionalism.
“It is not about doing extra bits and pieces on the training ground - it is about getting your body recovered in order to go again - plus a bit more - because we are away from home.”
Neil Austin will again miss out after failing to recover from a toe injury in time, and he is also expected to miss the trip to Northampton on Saturday.
Jordan Richards has been deputising for Austin and he is expected to keep his place in the defence against The Shrimpers tonight.
Michael Duckworth was back among the subs for Saturday’s 3-0 win over Newport after recovering from double hernia surgery but is not expected to start the game.
Top-scoring teenager Luke James went off in the final few minutes of the weekend win suffering with a dead leg but is expected to start tonight, alongside 34-year-old striker Marlon Harewood.
Cooper added: “Luke had a bit of a dead leg.
“But he is a tough little cookie and I’d be a brave man to say to him ‘are you not fit enough to play?’
“Even at 19 and 5ft 7in, he would be knocking on my door and wanting a fight with me.”