TONIGHT’S result is very important to everyone connected with Hartlepool United.
That, as Basil Fawlty once said, is “stating the bleedin’ obvious”.
But it is of more significance to at least one Pools man – Neil Austin.
An away win at Coventry City’s temporary home ground of Sixfields would set up a third round trip to Barnsley.
Hardly a glamour tie, given the Tykes’ woes at the foot of the Sky Bet Championship but a special one for Barnsley boy Austin.
The 30-year-old played 148 times for his hometown club, the team he and “the majority” of his family still supports.
“It’ll be brilliant if we can get through,” said the Pools vice-captain who, ironically, made his 149th appearance in blue and white at Cheltenham on Saturday.
“I’ve never been back to play there since I left.
“I’ve played on Oakwell and supported from the terraces, but I’ve never been there as the opposition, so that could feel strange.
“The majority of my family are Barnsley fans but I think they’d support me for just one game only!
“I think I’d need a helluva lot of tickets, but my uncle has a box there so that will come in handy.”
Austin played for the Tykes from 2001 until 2007 when he move to Darlington, where he enjoyed two seasons.
The defender is now in his fourth season at Pools following a short, but significant, line of Quakers who have made a successful switch from the “enemy”, such as Mick Tait and Neil Aspin.
Austin has been “Mr Steady” for Pools, providing an experienced head in a defence of few years and fewer league appearances.
This evening’s match in Northampton he admits has taken on a special significance following last Sunday’s third round draw conducted by the Sheringhams, dad Teddy and son Charlie.
“Usually, once you cross the white line it is just another game,” said Austin.
“But knowing there’s a chance of getting Barnsley is a nice incentive.
“But to do that we need to beat a very good Coventry team.”
The Sky Blues are a very gifted side with an ambitious manager.
But for all the ability – no team in League One have scored more than Cov’s 43 goals – there are defencies.
Coventry have shipped 36 goals, more than bottom club Bristol City.
Pools proved, in 45 impressive minutes 10 days ago, that they at least Coventry’s equals.
Colin Cooper’s team bossed the second half though had only Andy Monkhouse’s equaliser to show for their efforts.
“It took us about half an hour to get to grips with their formation and style of play,” Austin explained.
“But once we got sorted and organised for the second half, we showed what we can do.
“We absolutely dominated the game and we were unlucky not to get into the next round.”
While Pools are technically the away club tonight, they must also realise the reality is that there is no home side.
Coventry have left the Ricoh Arena in their own city to play 30-odd miles down the A45 in Northampton where they drew 2-2 against Crewe on Saturday.
The majority of Sky Blue fans are staying away in protest – when they took 7,000 fans to their win at MK Dons it was more than three times their average Sixfields attendance of 2,100.
“Their results have been a bit indifferent to be honest,” added Austin.
“We know what their strengths are and we know their weaknesses too and we’ll look to exploit them.”