Craig Harrison does not want things too easy in pre-season as he builds Hartlepool United up for the rigours of the National League.
So the manager gets his wish tonight as Pools play host to Sunderland at Victoria Park (kick-off 7.30pm).
Sometimes it’s better to have more negatives, then you have something to work withCRAIG HARRISON
Pools have, thus far, played friendlies against sides below them on the football ladder, having swept aside Ebac Northern League outfits Billingham Town (6-0) and Dunston UTS (7-0) before losing 2-1 at Harrogate Town, from National League North.
Not only do Pools face Championship opposition tonight, they are up against players with a proverbial flea in their ears.
New Sunderland manager Simon Grayson was less than pleased with the application of some of his squad in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at St Johnstone.
Mistakes he will forgive, but a lack of blood and sweat he will not – so Pools could face a more steely Black Cats this evening.
Harrison will not complain about a hard game.
Pools got one at the weekend when his side suffered a defeat of their own, at the CNG Stadium.
“There were positives and negatives and sometimes it’s better to have more negatives, then you have something to work with,” said Harrison.
“Regarding Billingham and Dunston, those games were 99% positives, but it’s good for managers, coaches and players to have a bit of negativity.
“It gives us a focus on improving.
“I don’t want the lads thinking we are the best team in the world because we’ve beaten Billingham Town and Dunston, nor do I want people to think we’re the worst team in the world because we’ve lost at Harrogate.
“We’re just four weeks into pre-season, we have rotated a lot of players, we’re good on the injury front.”
After a goalless first half, the match turned on an eventful 60-second spell, when Rhys Oates saw the Town keeper make a great recovery save before the home side immediately went upfield to take the lead.
“That’s the funny thing about football,” said Harrison who hopes to have Carl Magnay, Luke George, Jack Munns and Jake Cassidy back from injury tonight.
“Rhys has a chance to put us 1-0 up and they score straight away at the other, you have to take your opportunities when they come along.
“I think the chance has come as a bit of a surprise to Rhys, they have made a mistake at the back and he’s had a bit of a short reaction time.
“It was one of those things, we’ve got the fitness out of the game primarily.”