Hartlepool United caretaker Antony Sweeney keen to avoid putting pressure on former Blackpool striker Mark Cullen after FA Cup triumph over Wycombe Wanderers

Hartlepool United caretaker manager Antony Sweeney has stressed the importance of not putting too much pressure on Mark Cullen.

After a difficult start to his Pools career, Cullen has quickly established himself as the club’s number one striker having scored five goals in his last seven appearances.

Cullen was on target again as Pools secured a standout win at League One promotion chasers Wycombe Wanderers in their FA Cup first round replay but Sweeney has been quick to protect his talisman insisting he should not be exposed to too much expectation.

“We’ve been crying out for a goalscorer and Culls was frustrated at the start of the season, but there were things he needed to improve on and he’s done that,” explained Sweeney ahead of the visit of Forest Green on Saturday.

Mark Cullen has scored five goals in his last seven appearances for Hartlepool United (Credit: Michael Driver | MI News)

“Regardless of that, when he has a chance you’d back him to score.

“It’s always difficult because we need goals but the more pressure you put on strikers to score, the more they start snatching at chances.

“You want to put pressure on because we need that, but we don’t want to put too much pressure on so it negatively impacts his performances.”

Goals have been an issue for Pools with just 18 scored in the league resulting in the only negative goal difference in the top half of the League Two table.

Pools have only won two games by more than one goal this campaign with Sweeney admitting it has been a challenge to find the right formula between defence and attack.

“We struggled to find the right balance of trying to get more goals and be more of a threat without leaving ourselves vulnerable at the back.

“We were under pressure here [at Wycombe] but we probably looked more balanced if you like because we defended resolutely, but were a threat at times as well and could have scored a couple of more goals.”

And Sweeney believes finding the right balance will allow 29-year-old Cullen to flourish further.

“Culls is different but if you can play to his strengths, he has the ability to score goals. He’s clever and has the ability and knowhow to score, it’s just a case of finding a way to play to his strengths and I think we’re getting a lot closer to that balance.”

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