HARTLEPOOL United’s back line are being put through intensive sessions as Ronnie Moore looks to avoid another defensive horror show.
Pools were thumped 3-0 by Luton Town last weekend, having conceded twice in the opening 15 minutes, to leave them just a point above the relegation zone with two matches to play.
We will be working on the defence all week just in case Mirf is not right.Ronnie Moore
And with play-off hopefuls Exeter City the visitors to Victoria Park on Saturday, Moore is determined to see his rearguard put up more of a fight. That task will be made harder though if on-loan Scunthorpe United defender David Mirfin fails to overcome his toe injury.
Moore switched to a 4-4-2 at Luton, with Dan Jones and Scott Harrison in the middle, and he admits he has been working the back four hard this week following the Luton collapse but also in case Mirfin doesn’t make it.
Moore told SportMail: “It was just so poor first half against Luton, especially when you consider what the game was about – give some organisation and some sweat.
“We cannot have the same display this weekend.We have to be better than that though and we are, I know that.
“Playing with the three may have hurt [Harrison and Jones] a little bit, as they were playing too far apart because they are used to that.
“As a unit, the back four was too far apart so we have been in all week, working on the back four just in case Mirf
is not right.”
Mirfin is a major doubt after suffering a badly bruised toe in the draw with Accrington Stanley.
Scans have confirmed it isn’t broken and there is no ligament damage but the club is sweating on his fitness for the rest of the season.
If he doesn’t make it, then Moore will have to decide between keeping faith with a back four of Michael Duckworth, Harrison, Jones and Neil Austin.
Or reverting to a 3-5-2 formation, with Matthew Bates returning to central defence with Harrison and Jones either side.
Earlier this week Moore spoke about nerves crippling his young side, but he says they have no choice but to deal with.
He added: “You cannot stop it, the games are coming, so you have to handle it.
“It is bad enough for us on the bench because we cannot do anything!
“This is when we need the more experienced players because we don’t have many leaders.
“We have pros who have been around but not mouthy people, those who are in there screaming and shouting.
“People will say Luton’s Steve McNulty is fat and cannot run but he dominated everything out there.
“And you can see we needed someone like Mirf because every ball that was flicked on he would have had.
“When there are two of them playing that far apart, then you can get a double decker bus through the middle so we have been working on that.”